More support needed for veterans misusing alcohol, research shows

Newly-published results of a study conducted at Queen Alexandra Hospital looking at differences in alcohol misuse between veterans and the general public show more needs to be done earlier to help veterans with drinking problems.

The results come during Alcohol Awareness Week, highlighting the threat to physical and mental health of drinking too much.

The study, carried out in collaboration with Combat Stress and the King’s Centre for Military Health Research, found evidence to suggest that veterans were more likely to be referred for support with alcohol difficulties at an older age, and to be admitted to hospital for longer periods of time compared to non-veterans.

The report, co-written by Dr. Greta Westwood, Deputy Director of Research and Innovation at Portsmouth Hospitals Trust, said: “The findings presented within the paper suggest that the alcohol difficulties of UK veterans do not differ significantly from the non-veterans in the general public.

“However, in this sample of those individuals accessing a district general hospital, veterans with alcohol problems appeared to be older and more likely to be referred for medical difficulties rather than problems directly attributed to alcohol abuse.

“Taken together, this suggests that more support may be needed to help increase awareness in veterans about the potential harm of drinking higher than recommended levels and then help to engage veterans in alcohol services at a younger age.”

Retrospective anonymised data used for the study were extracted from the medical records of the 2,300 patients referred to the Alcohol Specialist Nurses Service (ASNS) at Queen Alexandra Hospital over an 18 month period between March 2014 and September 2015. Around 10% of those included in the study stated they were a veteran.

The report continued: “No differences in the severity of alcohol problems were observed between veterans and non-veterans who had been screened positive for experiencing difficulties with alcohol from a population attending a general hospital for a range of difficulties.

“However, veterans appeared to present over 10 years later, and there was some evidence to suggest they then spend longer periods of time admitted to hospital.”