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Ecological momentary assessment of drinking in young adults: An investigation into social context, affect, and motives

Previous research has indicated some significant predictors of young adult drinking, but less is known about the connections between relevant traits and situational factors that contribute to alcohol use. A new study aimed to change this by investigating motives and context of young adult drinking.

In this study, undergraduate students joined an app that sent randomly timed alerts to complete surveys on drinking behaviors throughout the day for 21 days. In this survey, students were asked about their drinking intentions, social plans, and current mood during each survey. Students also completed the AUDIT and a motives questionnaire to gauge reasons for alcohol use and alcohol related problems.

The results of this survey indicated that social context is the strongest predictor of alcohol initiation and consumption. Students were over 9 times more likely to drink if surrounded by others who were drinking. Motivation to drink may lead to initiation of alcohol use, but does not predict continued use. As far as traits predicting alcohol use, those who reported using alcohol to conform to others were more likely to initiate more drinking episodes and consume higher quantities of alcohol. Lastly, momentary positive or negative mood did not impact drinking behaviors.

Take Away: Social context is a very strong predictor of both alcohol initiation and alcohol consumption in young adults. Motivation to drink impacts initiation of alcohol use, but not necessarily continued drinking.

O’Donnell, R., Richardson, B., Fuller-Tyszkiewicz, M., Liknaitzky, P., Arulkadacham, L., et al. (2019). Ecological momentary assessment of drinking in young adults: An investigation into social context, affect, and motives. Addictive Behaviors. doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2019.06.008.

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