Pregnancy, Babies, Parenting News & Tips

Soldiers Who Kill in Combat Less Likely to Abuse Alcohol

By American University / Jun 10, 2014 12:29 PM EDT
  • Are soldiers mentally ill before even enlisting?
  • (Photo : Flickr/DVIDSHUB) Nearly 1 in 5 U.S. soldiers are mentally ill before enlisting in the Army, according to a new study.

It's no secret that combat experiences are highly stressful and can contribute to instances of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression among soldiers post-deployment. It also comes as no surprise that many soldiers afflicted with these conditions abuse alcohol in an attempt to self-medicate.

Like Us on Facebook

But new research coauthored by Cristel Russell, an associate professor of marketing with American University's Kogod School of Business, and researchers with the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research finds that the most traumatic of all combat experiences, killing, is less likely to lead to alcohol abuse.

The study, titled "Changes in Alcohol Use after Traumatic Experiences: The Impact of Combat on Army National Guardsmen" and published in the June issue of the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, runs contrary to previous research.

"We were very surprised by the findings. Most previous research supported the prediction that more traumatic experiences would lead to more negative health outcomes, such as alcohol abuse," said Russell. "We found the opposite -that the most traumatic experiences of killing in combat actually led to a decrease in alcohol abuse post-deployment."

Mortality Salience

Why would killing in combat, thought to be one of the most difficult stressors, cause soldiers to become less likely to abuse alcohol? Russell and her colleagues believe that killing experiences may cause soldiers to have an increased sense of mortality and vulnerability that triggers a focus on self-preservation, which manifests itself in reduced high-risk alcohol consumption.

"We reason that a possible explanation may be that soldiers who experience killing during combat become more aware of their own vulnerability to death. Mortality salience is known to have effects on decisions that people make including, in our case, the decision to not take risks and abuse alcohol, presumably to live longer," said Russell. "This is a post hoc explanation and our future research is going to try and explore this intriguing explanation further."

Comparing Pre-and-Post Deployment Data

The study is also one of the first to compare pre-and post- deployment data. Russell and her colleagues used this approach to better identify the associations between different types of combat experiences and changes in alcohol consumption.

For the study, Russell and her fellow researchers surveyed 1,397 members of an Army National Guard Infantry Brigade Combat Team three months before and three months after their deployment to Iraq in 2005-2006. Members of the unit completed anonymous surveys regarding behavioral health and alcohol use and, in the post-survey, the combat experiences they had during deployment.

Aside from the stunning revelation that soldiers who kill in combat are less likely to abuse alcohol post-deployment, survey results revealed that the prevalence of alcohol use increased from 70.8% pre-deployment to 80.5% post-deployment and that alcohol misuse more than doubled, increasing from 8.51% before deployment to 19.15% after deployment.

Next Steps

This study acknowledges that future research is needed on this complex topic. Russell and her colleagues plan to explore the influence mortality salience has on soldiers who have killed while in combat in further detail.

"It is important for healthcare providers and researchers to better understand and account for the fact that traumatic events do not necessarily result in a negative outcome and that positive outcomes can in fact be born from traumatic events," said Russell. "Building on these findings, future research should take into account the degree to which individuals are equipped to deal with stressful situations and assess how coping strategies may affect their behavioral response to potentially traumatic events. There may be ways to promote coping pre- or post-traumatic experiences."

Provided by the American University
Featured Video : Never Leave Your Child Alone in the Car: Parents Urged to Take Heat Stroke Seriously Before it's too late

Ice Cold Awareness—The ALS Association & The #IceBucketChallenge

In terms of marketing ploys, none may be quite as viral in these past few summer months than the “Ice Bucket Challenge” which has swept through social media by storm. The concept, simple: to either donate funds to the ALS Association or douse yourself with a bucket of ice water. And like a chain mail or massive viral text, the challenge has been spread to the corners of the United States.
Initiated by the ALS Association, a non-profit organization that supports awareness and research into Amyotropohic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the organization has picked up momentum and a bank full of funds from the freezing summertime challenge.

Read More »

Mexican Scientists Develop New Device to Monitor Developing Cardiovascular Disease

With staggering statistics of the American Heart Association and other researchers in the field of cardiology proving that Hispanics/Latinos over the age of 20 have a greater than 30 percent incidence of cardiovascular disease, researchers in Mexico have begun developing a device that will monitor cholesterol and triglyceride levels—all without a single drop of blood.

Read More »

A Fanless PC That Can Keep Its Cool And Still Be Hot—Silent Power PC

The days of the traditional tower PC as we remember them are long gone. The contemporary takes on the personal computer are far sleeker, some might even say chicer than their 90's predecessors. Processors have picked up GB's of speed, memory has expanded exponentially and mother-boards have verged on the borderline microscopic. But what's more, some companies are even ditching the essentials for a more creative approach at high-speed processing.

Read More »

An Exercise in Simplicity—Faraday Café Puts An End to the Social Age

There’s something to be said in the simplicity that we grew up in. Confined by the evolutionary limitations our voices and our feet could manage, before the turn of the digital revolution, humans were a far less social creature… at least in theory. But now that we’re so connected on the internet, and constantly looking for more ways to log on rather than hang out, there are those who think that the simplicity and personal connections we once thrived on are lost.

Read More »

Perseids Meteor Shower 2014 [August 11-12 Live Streaming & Peak Times]: Perseids Play ‘til Tuesday

With the closest extra supermoon we’ll witness for another two decades orbiting just beyond our atmosphere this past weekend, many found that the radiating light-pollution was a distraction to the real show; the Perseids meteor shower.

Read More »

Mexican Copper Mine Contaminates Both Sides of the Border—Toxic Drinking Water

While researchers at the EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne) are studying the results of a 140-cubic-foot oil spill in the North Sea, to identify issues and rapid response in the first 24 hours after a major spill, the Mexican government is far more preoccupied with a much more real situation of pollution near the American border. Only 25 miles south of the Mexican-American border in the province of Cananea, federal officials have reported that approximately 10 million gallons of toxic wastewater from the Buenavista copper mine have entered into nearby rivers, contaminating drinking water and causing massive die-offs in local fish/plant species.

Read More »

So Now You’re A Vegan: How One Small Bug Bite Can Change Your Appetite

Causing quite a bit of stir in parts of the Southwest, scientists discover that a rash outbreak of forced-veganism is likely due to a simple bug bite—but it’s not a temporary issue physicians say.

Read More »

Twice As Likely To Lose a Limb—How Poverty Affects Diabetes

Exposing the large gap in the current healthcare system, with a particular focus on disadvantaged populations, a new study from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UC Los Angeles reveals that lower-income individuals suffering with diabetes have a significantly larger chance of amputation than those living in wealthier areas.

Read More »

Supermoon & Perseids Meteor Shower will Cover Night Sky this Aug. 9-12 Weekend [LIVE STREAM Info]

A summer filled with many memorable moments, the image of a night sky covered in light may be one for the record books, astronomers assure. In the second installment of the supermoon trilogy that is taking place this summer, this Sunday Aug. 10 will take the record for the next two decades as the largest full moon of the quarter-Century.

Read More »

Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis Vector Detained in Jail after Fleeing Medical Supervision

Sparking a state-wide manhunt in California after refusing treatment for a highly virulent strain of Tuberculosis, suspect Eduardo Rosas Cruz, 25, was recently arrested in Kern County and detained until he is medically cleared to be transferred, Deputy District Attorney for the San Joaquin County Stephen Taylor told sources.

Read More »

Scientists Find Remnants of A Dwarf White Supernova—Zombie Star of the Cosmos

Like a headline straight from an episode of Star Trek, scientists at NASA confirm that they recently discovered remnants of a “Zombie star” in the galaxy “NGC 1309”, nearly 110 million light-years away. Arising out of a very abnormal situation where an unusually weak supernova reaction obliterated only a portion of the white dwarf star, the researchers published their results yesterday, Aug. 7 in the journal Nature.

Read More »

“Xamaleón”—Defying the Laws of Creamery, One Dessert is A Chameleon in Disguise

Adding a bit of science to the sweetness of ice cream, one Spanish physicist turned culinary mastermind has created a secret weapon he calls “Xamaleón” that’ll blow your mind and your taste buds away. A man of many talents, the master inventor Manuel Linares is Barcelonian marvel, whose many talents can best be explained by his inability to settle for less.

Read More »

Real Time Analytics