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Partner Effects: Analyzing Service Member and Spouse Drinking Over Time

Rayan Joneydi, Christianna S. Williams, Abt Global; Nida H. Corry, Stas Kolenikov, Alicia C. Sparks, formerly Abt Global; Isabel G. Jacobson, Jacqueline C. Pflieger, Leidos and Naval Health Research Center; Leanne K. Knobloch, University of Illinois; Valerie A. Stander, Naval Health Research Center.


June 5, 2023

Excessive alcohol use is a substantial problem for the military. It is linked to greater risk of injuries, occupational and legal problems, productivity loss, behavioral health disorders, and suicide among service members. There also is evidence that alcohol misuse and its consequences affect not just service members but also their spouses.

As a result, adopting a family-centered approach toward alcohol prevention in the military may be advantageous. However, little is known about the specific interplay between partners’ drinking behaviors over time. Studies of civilians have found some evidence that romantic partners influence each other’s drinking habits, but results are conflicting. More importantly, there is little data on the significance of interdependent drinking patterns between spouses in the military. However, information about this is critical to inform evidence-based prevention strategies.

This study leverages a structural equation modeling approach with longitudinal dyadic data to examine how service members and their spouses influence each other's drinking over time. It also explores the complex individual, interpersonal, and organizational factors that may contribute to alcohol use.

The findings suggest that changing the drinking habits of one spouse could lead to a change in the drinking habits of the other. That supports family-centered alcohol prevention approaches in the military involving both partners. Dual-military couples especially may benefit from targeted interventions, as they face higher risk of unhealthy alcohol consumption.

North America