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Combat-exposed soldiers are at an increased risk for health problems that diminish quality of life (QOL) and substance use. We explored the cross-sectional associations between combat exposure and two measures of QOL, and the effect of substance use on those associations.
Data are from the baseline wave of Operation: SAFETY, an ongoing survey-based study of United States Army Reserve/National Guard (USAR/NG) soldiers and their partners. Our sample consisted of male USAR/NG soldiers with a history of deployment (N = 248). Limitations in usual activity due to physical and emotional problems were assessed using the 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey (SF-36).
Greater combat exposure was independently associated with limitations in usual activity due to physical (regression coefficient = −0.35, 95% CI −0.55 to −0.16, R 2 = 0.09; p < 0.01) and emotional (regression coefficient = −0.32, 95% CI −0.56 to −0.09, R 2 = 0.09; p < 0.01) problems. Combat exposure had a significant interaction with frequent heavy drinking on physical role limitations (regression coefficient = −0.65, 95% CI −1.18 to −0.12, R 2 = 0.12; p < 0.05) and emotional role limitations (regression coefficient = −0.83, 95% CI −1.46 to −0.19, R 2 = 0.12; p < 0.05). Combat exposure also had a significant interaction with lifetime non-medical use of prescription drugs on physical role limitations (regression coefficient = 0.81, 95% CI 0.18–1.45, R 2 = 0.11; p < 0.05).
Combat is an unmodifiable risk factor for poor QOL among soldiers; however, frequent heavy drinking and non-medical use of prescription drugs modifies the relationship between combat exposure and QOL. Therefore, substance use is a potential point of intervention to improve QOL among soldiers.
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- Combat exposure, emotional and physical role limitations, and substance use among male United States Army Reserve and National Guard soldiers
R. A. Hoopsick
B. M. Vest
D. L. Homish
G. G. Homish
- Springer International Publishing
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