OUR RESEARCH MISSION
Our faculty research a broad array of health-related topics relevant to the DoD and the Nation. The research informs the development of prevention efforts, assessments, treatments, policy, and dissemination. Research grants funding these studies are used to support civilian-track students after their third year in the program, research fellows, and other research support staff.
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A Legacy of Research
IMPROVING TREATMENT AND OUTCOMES AMONG SOLDIERS IDENTIFIED WITH SEVERE ALCOHOL USE AFTER RETURN FROM AN OEF/OIF/OND DEPLOYMENT
High rates of severe alcohol use among soldiers occur post-deployment and pose significant threats to soldier health and overall troop readiness. Furthermore, severe alcohol use increases risk for, and impedes recovery from, numerous conditions common to deployed soldiers including depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and suicidality.
Dr. Joshua Gray is collaborating with Dr. Erich Dietrich at USU, Drs. Rachel Adams and Mary Jo Larson at Brandeis University, and the Defense Health Agency to examine the Military Health System response to Army soldiers with positive screens for severe alcohol use. To achieve these aims, this study will leverage the Substance Use and Psychological Injury Combat Study (SUPIC), a population-based longitudinal database of over 865,000 post-deployment Army soldiers. The findings from this study will yield recommendations for enhancing quality of care for soldiers with severe alcohol use.
PROSPECTIVE STUDY OF PEDIATRIC LOSS OF CONTROL EATING AND PSYCHOLOGICAL OUTCOMES
Loss of control (LOC) eating is a disordered eating behavior among shown to predict excess weight gain and worsening metabolic functioning. Preliminary data suggest that military service members frequently engage in LOC eating and are high-risk for eating disorders. Likewise, adolescent military dependent youth may be at high-risk for engaging in LOC eating. While LOC eating has been cross-sectionally associated with adverse metabolic and psychological outcomes, few studies have examined these relationships longitudinally. “A Prospective Study of Pediatric Loss of Control Eating and Psychological Outcomes” examined the temporal associations among LOC eating, disordered eating attitudes, and anxiety and depressive symptoms in a sample of children, both with overweight and non-overweight. Youth were assessed at a baseline time point and again 5 years later.
Findings revealed that LOC eating at baseline was associated with the development of partial- or full-syndrome binge eating disorder at follow-up. Compared to youth who never reported LOC eating or reported LOC eating only at baseline, those engaging in the behavior at both baseline and follow-up time points experienced significantly increased depressive symptoms, reaching clinical cut-offs.
These results suggest that LOC eating is a behavior that should be assessed by primary care providers on a regular basis. Identify patterns of this behavior and intervening before the development of an eating disorder or obesity should be considered in healthy policy decisions.
COMPARISON OF MILITARY DEPENDENT AND CIVILIAN ADOLESCENT GIRLS WITH LOSS OF CONTROL EATING
United States service members appear to be at high risk for eating disorders and associated eating pathology. However, no data has examined whether this vulnerability may extend to adolescent military dependents, a population that faces unique psychosocial stressors, or whether military youth differ from their civilian peers. “Comparison of Overweight and Obese Military-Dependent and Civilian Adolescent Girls with Loss-of-Control Eating” examined the disordered eating behavior and attitudes, psychosocial functioning, and metabolic functioning of adolescent female military dependents with overweight and obesity compared to their civilian counterparts matched for eating behavior and weight.
When compared to adolescent civilians, adolescent female military dependents reported significantly more binge episodes and disordered eating attitudes. Further, military dependents reported greater symptoms of depression and insulin resistance, even after for accounting for depression. Findings suggest that adolescent female military dependents with overweight and obesity may be at greater risk for disordered-eating and type 2 diabetes than their civilian peers.
Military health policy should include careful screening and monitoring of adolescent military dependents with overweight and obesity, as they may present with disordered eating and associated psychological and health problems.