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A latent profile analysis of social anxiety and alcohol use among college students

Previous research has found that social anxiety and alcohol use disorders often co-occur and college students may be at an increased risk for both. The current study looks at groups of students based on social anxiety characteristics and alcohol use behaviors. The goal was to look at how gender and age along with differences in cognitive, emotions, and academic outcomes differ among the groups.

Participants were recruited from a university and the final group included 674 college students who endorsed alcohol use in the past month. The researchers used surveys to analyze social anxiety indicators, alcohol use indicators, and auxiliary variables surrounding cognitive, emotional, and academic factors. The results split participants into 6 different classes. Class 1 (13%) had low social anxiety, low drinking, and non-problematic drinking. Class 2 (29%) had low social anxiety, moderate drinking, and non-problematic drinking. Class 3 (15%) had moderate social anxiety, low drinking, and non-problematic drinking. Class 4 (31%) had moderate social anxiety, moderate drinking, and problematic drinking behaviors. Class 5 (8%) had high social anxiety, low drinking quantity but high drinking frequency, and problematic drinking behaviors. Finally, class 6 (4%) had moderate social anxiety, heaving drinking, and problematic drinking behaviors.

The results showed that age and gender had no effect on class membership. They found that students in class 1 had few beliefs in many of the factors causing social anxiety such as interaction and tension-reduction fears. Both class 1 and 2 were found to have fewer evaluation fears-related beliefs. On the other end, class 6 had significantly more beliefs around evaluation fears along with the other fears such as observation. Both class 5 and 6 reported highest levels of depression, anxiety, and stress while class 1 and 2 had the lowest levels. The current study offers clarity into the possibility that social anxiety and problematic alcohol use together may increase students’ chances for adverse outcomes. 

Take Away: The current study identifies groups of students based on social anxiety and alcohol use. Participants included 674 college students and researchers asked about social anxiety, drinking, and variables including cognitive, emotional, and academic factors. They were split into 6 classes based on responses that ranged from low social anxiety, low drinking, and non-problematic drinking to moderate social anxiety, heaving drinking, and problematic drinking behaviors. Class 1 and 2 had fewer evaluation fears-related beliefs and the lowest depression, anxiety, and stress while classes 5 and 6 had the highest reported levels. This offers clarity into the possibility that social anxiety and problematic alcohol use together may increase students’ risk for adverse outcomes. 

Villarosa-Hurlocker, M. C., & Madson, M. B. (2020). A latent profile analysis of social anxiety and alcohol use among college students. Addictive Behaviors, 104, 106284. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2019.106284

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