Supporting Women Veterans with Alcohol Use

Supporting Women Veterans with Alcohol Use

Supporting Women Veterans with Alcohol Use

Study exploring digital platforms to support women veterans with alcohol use at King’s Centre for Military Health Research – recruiting now

For over a century, women in the UK Armed Forces have been integral to our national defence. Despite their longstanding service, research focused on women veterans and their health and wellbeing remains scarce. This highlights a critical gap in our understanding of their unique experiences and needs both in and out of service.

The majority of research exploring the impact of alcohol consumption in veterans is focused on men. However, we know from the existing, albeit limited evidence, that alcohol use in ex-serving women is substantially higher than that of their civilian counterparts.

We know that problematic alcohol use often co-occurs with common mental health disorders including depression, anxiety, and PTSD and alcohol is often used to self-medicate and cope with negative internal states. Research has shown that common mental health disorders are more prevalent in ex-serving women than in the general population and crucially that ex-serving women face barriers to accessing mental health support, including due to ongoing alcohol use.

Digital health innovations

Digital health technologies, like smartphone apps, offer promising avenues for delivering brief interventions, bypassing geographic barriers, long treatment waiting lists, and stigma linked to in-person assistance. They hold potential for advancing gender equity by empowering individuals with control over their health data, expanding healthcare access, and addressing specific challenges more prevalent for women, such as childcare. However, the development of these digital health interventions often lacks a gender equity perspective, a crucial aspect that needs addressing.

Supporting women who have served and consume alcohol

King’s Centre for Military Health Research (KCMHR) is a leading UK civilian institution for Military Health Research and focuses on research relating to serving personnel, ex-serving personnel, military families, and interventions.

To address gaps in the evidence base relating to ex-serving women, researchers from KCMHR are conducting a study testing multiple digital platforms to support ex-serving women manage their alcohol use.

Each platform has been developed incorporating expert feedback and guidance from focus groups with ex-serving women as well as military and substance use charities to be tailored to the unique needs of women who have served.

Want to take part?

If you are interested in taking part in this study, click here to complete the eligibility survey.

We are seeking to recruit individuals who are veterans of the UK Armed Forces, identify as female, live in the United Kingdom, use a smartphone, drink alcohol, and are willing to take part for 12 weeks in this online study. You can read the participant information sheet here.

At the end of the study, participants who complete the baseline and final questionnaire will receive a £20 Love2Shop voucher as a thank you for taking part.

By taking part in this research, your contribution will support the ex-serving community by helping us to test a digital health intervention which can benefit others in the future.

If you would like to know more about the study or have any questions, please get in touch at ration-study@kcl.ac.uk.

Happy International Women’s Day from the Centre for Military Women’s Research 

International Women's Day

International Women’s Day (IWD) is a celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. It invites the world to recognise efforts and progress made towards gender equality and to reflect on what more we can do.  

This year’s theme, #Inspire Inclusion, calls on us to “break down barriers, challenge stereotypes, and create environments where all women are valued and respected”.  In recognition of this theme, this blog puts a spotlight on our recent research project ‘I don’t feel like that’s for me’: Overcoming barriers to mental healthcare for women veterans’.  The project explored the mental healthcare support needs and experience of women veterans in England, and developed guidance for professionals supporting women veterans’ mental health. 

What did we find?  Women veterans may face several gendered barriers when accessing support for their mental health. These include services being perceived as being male-dominated and designed for men (often related to male and combat-focused branding), limited understanding of women’s needs, misconceptions around women’s role in the Armed Forces, women not identifying with the term ‘veteran’, and caring responsibilities taking precedent. Importantly, the project highlights how trauma-informed approaches to care can help to overcome barriers and facilitate positive experiences within support services for women veterans. We’ve created a mnemonic ‘WOMAN VET’ to help mental healthcare professionals remember the key takeaway messages for offering the best support to women veterans. 

Want to find out more? Check out the project infographic, summary report and guidance for mental healthcare professionals here.  

We wanted to end our International Women’s Day blog with a special thank you to all the women in the military community who have played a part in our research as members of an expert-by-experience group or research participants. Without your support and time, the work of the CWMR would not be possible.  

Stay tuned for our next blog post, where you will hear from interns at the CMWR about their experiences learning about women in the military community and assisting with research during their internship program.