The Association Between COVID-19 Anxiety, Drinking to Cope, Alcohol Self-Medication and Alcohol Use in Young Adults: A Cross-Sectional Descriptive Study
Delaney, Kendra Osborn
Background: Young adult binge drinking (5+ drinks for males and 4+ drinks for females in < 2 hours) is associated with significant morbidity and mortality, but despite significant prevention strategies, young adults binge drinking remains high. This may be attributable in part to the “self- medication” hypothesis which states individuals use alcohol to cope with negative emotions or experiences. The purpose of this study was to determine the associations of anxiety, COVID-19 anxiety, drinking to cope with anxiety, alcohol self-medication, and alcohol use (quantity and frequency) among young adults. Methods: Individuals 18 to 30 years (N = 203, mean age = 25.2, SD = 3.4) were recruited through email and social media ads to participate in this cross-sectional descriptive study. The study used linear regressions to evaluate the relationship between anxiety (PROMIS Anxiety), COVID-19 anxiety (Coronavirus Anxiety Scale [CAS]), drinking motives (Modified Drinking Motives Questionnaire – Revised [MDMQ-R], coping-anxiety subscale), alcohol self-medication (percent time drinking to calm down) and young adult binge drinking (USAUDIT) to evaluate the role of the self-medication hypothesis in this population. Results: PROMIS Anxiety T score and CAS score were positively associated with USAUDIT, USAUDIT-C, AIQ intensity, and AIQ frequency after controlling for age and sex. MDMQ-R coping-anxiety subscale score and percent time drinking to calm down mediated the association between PROMIS Anxiety T score and USAUDIT and USAUDIT-C score and CAS Score and USAUDIT and USAUDIT-C score. Conclusions: This study provides evidence for the positive association between anxiety and alcohol use (quantity and frequency) and the positive association between coronavirus anxiety and alcohol use (quantity and frequency). This study also provides evidence for the mediational effects of drinking to cope with anxiety symptoms and the alcohol self-medication on the association between anxiety and alcohol use (quantity and frequency) and the association between coronavirus anxiety and alcohol use (quantity and frequency).