Risk and protective effects of social networks on alcohol use problems among Army Reserve and National Guard soldiers

Erin M. Anderson Goodell, Renee M. Johnson, Carl A. Latkin, D. Lynn Homish, Gregory G. Homish

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Background: Military personnel engage in alcohol-related behaviors for a variety of reasons, some of which may be socially-motivated. Although civilian-based research has established that peers’ drinking behaviors are correlated with individuals’ own drinking behaviors, military work has not yet examined the influence of social network characteristics on soldier drinking behaviors. This study describes characteristics of soldiers’ social networks in association with soldier alcohol use problems. Methods: This study includes data on 353 U.S. Reserve and National Guard (R/NG) soldiers and their 2154 past-year social ties. Descriptive analyses examined social tie characteristics (e.g., military affiliation, substance misuse, and drinking influence). Negative binomial regression models examined relationships between social network characteristics and soldier alcohol use problems. Results: On average, 14% of a R/NG soldier's social network was comprised of military-affiliated ties. Further, an average of 14% of ties in a soldier's network were considered drinking buddies, and 8% of ties were heavy-drinkers. More drinking buddies and heavy-drinking ties in a soldier's social network and greater average number of past-month days drinking with ties were associated with increases in soldier alcohol problems. For deployed soldiers, larger military-affiliated social networks were protective against alcohol problems. Conclusions: Drinking-related social network characteristics are associated with increased alcohol problems among soldiers, while military-affiliated ties are protective specifically for deployed soldiers. Interventions to reduce alcohol use problems may focus on enhancing social connections between R/NG soldiers and providing opportunities to connect deployed R/NG soldiers with one another during and after reintegration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106244
JournalAddictive Behaviors
Volume103
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2020

Keywords

  • Alcohol use problems
  • Deployment
  • Military
  • National Guard
  • Reserve
  • Social network

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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