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J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2008 May;69(3):348-51.

Sexual harassment experiences and harmful alcohol use in a military sample: differences in gender and the mediating role of depression.

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National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System, Women's Health Sciences Division (116B-3), 150 South Huntington Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02130, USA.



Researchers and clinicians alike are interested in the effects of sexual harassment on mental health, including associations with problem drinking. The aim of the current investigation was to examine depression symptoms as a mediator of the association between sexual harassment during military service and current harmful alcohol use in a sample of former military personnel, stratified by gender.


Using a cross-sectional design, 3,946 former reservists were surveyed regarding their experiences of sexual harassment in the military and their current depression symptoms and harmful alcohol use. Fifty-nine percent of the final sample were female.


As expected, women endorsed experiencing sexual harassment more than men, and men endorsed harmful drinking more than women. Sexual harassment was associated with increased depression symptoms among both men and women; however, depression symptoms mediated the association between sexual harassment and harmful alcohol use among women only. Sexual harassment was not a significant predictor of harmful alcohol use among men.


The associations between sexual harassment, depression symptoms, and harmful alcohol use differ between men and women in this sample. Consistent with the self-medication hypothesis, sexual harassment is associated with harmful drinking among women, and this association can be accounted for by symptoms of depression. The high prevalence of harmful drinking among men and the lack of an association with sexual harassment suggest that, in this sample, men's harmful drinking is influenced by factors other than sexual harassment.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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