Mental Health

Study Sheds Light on Why People Binge Drink

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For most forms of alcohol use, including binge drinking, research had shown that drinking tends to increase throughout adolescence and early adulthood and then decline although the reasons behind this pattern are not well understood.  A recent study published in Developmental Psychology investigated developmental changes in both alcohol use behaviors and self-reported reasons for alcohol use from adolescence to early adulthood.

Participants were surveyed every 2 years from ages 18 to 30 as part of the Monitoring the Future national study (analytic weighted sample size N = 9,308; 53% women, 40% college attenders). Latent growth models were used to examine correlations between trajectories of binge drinking and trajectories of self-reported reasons for alcohol use across young adulthood.

Results revealed developmental changes in reasons for use and correlations between the patterns of within-person change in frequency of binge drinking and within-person change in reasons for use. In particular, an increase in binge drinking between ages 18 and 22 was most positively correlated with using alcohol to get high and because of boredom. Continued binge drinking between ages 22 and 30 was most strongly correlated with using alcohol to get away from problems.

Almost no moderation by gender, race, college attendance, employment, or marital status was found.  The results  illustrated the ongoing and dynamic connections between changes in binge drinking and changes in reasons for use across late adolescence and early adulthood.