Background: Civilian populations now comprise the majority of casualties in modern warfare, but effects of war exposure on alcohol disorders in the general population are largely unexplored. Accumulating literature indicates that adverse experiences early in life sensitize individuals to increased alcohol problems after adult stressful experiences. However, child and adult stressful experiences can be correlated, limiting interpretation. We examine risk for alcohol disorders among Israelis after the 2006 Lebanon War, a fateful event outside the control of civilian individuals and uncorrelated with childhood experiences. Further, we test whether those with a history of maltreatment are at greater risk for an alcohol use disorder after war exposure compared to those without such a history. Methods: Adult household residents selected from the Israeli population register were assessed with a psychiatric structured interview; the analyzed sample included 1306 respondents. War measures included self-reported days in an exposed region. Results: Among those with a history of maltreatment, those in a war-exposed region for 30+ days had 5.3 times the odds of subsequent alcohol disorders compared to those exposed 0 days (95%C.I. 1.01-27.76), controlled for relevant confounders; the odds ratio for those without this history was 0.5 (95%C.I. 0.25-1.01); test for interaction: X2=5.28, df=1, P=0.02. Conclusions: Experiencing a fateful stressor outside the control of study participants, civilian exposure to the 2006 Lebanon War, is associated with a heightened the risk of alcohol disorders among those with early adverse childhood experiences. Results suggest that early life experiences may sensitize individuals to adverse health responses later in life.
- Alcohol disorders
- Childhood maltreatment