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Drinking to cope, emotional distress and alcohol use and abuse: a ten-year model.

Holahan CJ, Moos RH, Holahan CK, Cronkite RC, Randall PK. Drinking to cope, emotional distress and alcohol use and abuse: a ten-year model. Journal of Studies On Alcohol. 2001 Mar 1; 62(2):190-8.

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OBJECTIVE: This study examines the ability of baseline drinking to cope to predict drinking behavior across an ensuing 10-year period. In addition, it examines whether a propensity to consume alcohol to cope with stressors strengthens the link between emotional distress and drinking behavior. METHOD: The study uses survey data from a baseline sample of 421 adults (54% women) assessed four times over a 10-year period (i.e., baseline and 1-, 4- and 10-year follow-ups). RESULTS: Baseline drinking to cope was associated with more alcohol consumption and drinking problems at all four observations across the 10-year interval. Baseline drinking to cope also predicted increases in both alcohol consumption and drinking problems in the following year. Moreover, change in drinking to cope was positively linked to changes in both alcohol consumption and drinking problems over the interval. Individuals who had a stronger propensity to drink to cope at baseline showed a stronger link between both anxiety and depressive symptoms and drinking outcomes. CONCLUSIONS: Findings demonstrate the power of alcohol-related coping strategies in predicting long-term drinking behavior and they illustrate one way in which such coping is linked to alcohol use and abuse. More broadly, they underscore the importance of considering individual differences in emotion-based theories of drinking behavior.

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