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Cross-cutting Mechanisms that Contribute to Developing Anxiety-related Alcohol Use Problems among College Students

Vincenzo G Roma, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Drinking behaviors among college students have become problematic as evidenced by 20% of students who endorse five or more problems associated with alcohol use. Alcohol use problems are associated with numerous anxiety problems and can begin as early as young adolescence. The period for risk of developing emotional problems peaks during the transition to college. Despite the relationship between anxiety and alcohol use problems, little is known about the cross-cutting mechanisms that explain their relationship and comorbidity. Researchers have proposed affective (i.e. anxiety sensitivity and distress tolerance) and alcohol-specific motivations (i.e. expectancies, valuations, peer influence, and drinking motives) as vulnerabilities for alcohol use and anxiety problems. To address the relationship gap,, the current study examined how changes in anxiety sensitivity, alcohol expectancies, valuations, peer resistance, and drinking motives contributed to changes in alcohol and anxiety interference across three waves of time. Key findings from 297 college students revealed expectancies predicted positive changes alcohol use problems across two phases of time. Anxiety sensitivity predicted alcohol use problems, drinking motives, expectancies, and valuations. Moreover, anxiety sensitivity predicted positive changes in anxiety interference and peer resistance. Drinking motives were associated with increased changes in alcohol use problems. The relationship between anxiety sensitivity and alcohol use problems were serially mediated via expectancies and motives. These results highlight the importance of targeting specific cognitive- affective mechanisms among early college students to reduce the risk of alcohol use and anxiety-related problems.

Subject Area

Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

Roma, Vincenzo G, "Cross-cutting Mechanisms that Contribute to Developing Anxiety-related Alcohol Use Problems among College Students" (2018). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI10837068.