STRESS-RELATED DRINKING LEADS TO ALCOHOL PROBLEMS
College students who drink primarily to cope with stress may be more likely to continue drinking heavily after graduating, and to have more drinking-related problems, than students who drink primarily for social reasons.
Researcher H. Wesley Perkins of Hobart and William Smith Colleges discovered, through a survey that tracked college drinkers into their post-collegiate years, that students who drink heavily for social reasons substantially cut their alcohol intake after they graduate.
Perkins surveyed students who were undergraduates in the years 1982, 1987 and 1991. He also surveyed postgraduates who had attended the same institution, from the graduating classes of 1979, 1982, 1985 and 1989.
The students and graduates who participated in the study were surveyed regarding their alcohol consumption, negative consequences of their alcohol use, and their reasons for drinking.
Perkins found that the "vast majority" of survey respondents (88 percent to 98.4 percent) were drinkers. Students' and graduates' reports of amount of alcohol consumed and negative consequences of drinking indicated that there was "evidence of a decline in drinking and related problems in postcollegiate life." The lowest average number of drinks and fewest negative consquences of drinking were found among "the oldest postcollegians."
However, students who continued to drink after leaving college became increasingly likely to cite stress as the reason for doing so, Perkins found. Among both men and women in the older groups, those who cited stress as their motivation for drinking "drink more heavily" and experienced "multiple negative consequences" of drinking.
As college students make the transition to post-college life, social motivations for drinking tend to drop away and a reduction in alcohol consumption occurs. However, those who drank to cope with stress are more likely than those who drank socially to continue to drink heavily and to experience negative consequences of alcohol consumption.
N = 3,101 college undergraduates
Age range 18-24
N = 1,151 postgraduates
Perkins HW: Stress-motivated drinking in
collegiate and postcollegiate young adulthood:
life course and gender patterns. Journal
of Studies on Alcohol 1999; 60:219-227.
Reprint requests to Dr. H. Wesley Perkins,
Dept. of Anthropology and Sociology,
Hobart and William Smith Colleges,
Geneva, New York, 14456.
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