Apr 28, 2021
DoD Health Related Behaviors Survey for active component service members
5.5% identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB)
Significantly greater percentages of LGB personnel than non-LGB personnel reported serious psychological distress and probable PTSD , suicidal thoughts and attempts, binge and heavy drinking, e-cigarette and smokeless tobacco use, illicit drug use, and unwanted sexual contact.* These results are not specific to the Marines.
* Unwanted sexual contact in the HRBS is a broader construct than sexual assault, and these survey responses do not represent official reports of sexual assault.
56.7% reported at least one prior combat or noncombat deployment
Among those who had ever deployed:
The Health Related Behaviors Survey (HRBS) is the U.S. Department of Defense's (DoD's) flagship survey for understanding the health, health-related behaviors, and well-being of service members.
The 2018 HRBS shows that active component Marines met or surpassed weight goals for the general population. The proportion of Marines who were obese is below the Healthy People 2020 target for the general population, while the proportion who were of normal weight is above the target.
Marines present many other health concerns, however. Few reported getting adequate amounts of sleep. Their levels of binge and heavy drinking were above Healthy People 2020 targets and general population levels. Their levels of use of tobacco and nicotine products were above Healthy People 2020 targets. Their levels of serious psychological stress and probable PTSD were above general population rates. Their rates of suicidal ideation and attempts were greater than those for the general population. Many Marines reported engaging in risky sexual behaviors; Marines were more likely, for example, than members of the general population to have sex with a new partner without using a condom.
Development of military-appropriate population benchmarks, especially by service branch, could facilitate goal-setting, command visibility, and incremental improvements in health-related readiness.
A low overall response rate (6.1 percent for the Marine Corps and 9.6 percent across all services) suggests that the results should be interpreted with caution and in conjunction with other existing data. Use of targeted incentives, modules administered to subsets of respondents, or a service member panel survey could help improve response rates and representation. The above comparisons with the general adult population do not control for demographic differences between the two populations.
Adapted from 2018 Department of Defense Health Related Behaviors Survey (HRBS): Results for the Active Component, by Sarah O. Meadows, Charles C. Engel, Rebecca L. Collins, Robin L. Beckman, Joshua Breslau, Erika Litvin Bloom, Michael Stephen Dunbar, Mary Lou Gilbert, David Grant, Jennifer Hawes-Dawson, Stephanie Brooks Holliday, Sarah MacCarthy, Eric R. Pedersen, Michael W. Robbins, Adam J. Rose, Jamie Ryan, Terry L. Schell, and Molly Simmons, Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND Corporation, RR-4222-OSD, 2021. The RAND Corporation is a research organization that develops solutions to public policy challenges to help make communities throughout the world safer and more secure, healthier and more prosperous. RAND is nonprofit, nonpartisan, and committed to the public interest. For the complete report detailing these and other findings, visit www.rand.org/t/RR4222.
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