Research & Resources

Daily Associations Between Affect, Drinking Motives, and Drinking Intensity Among U.S. Young Adults

This study investigated the relationships between daily affect, drinking motives, likelihood of drinking, and intensity of drinking—particularly high-intensity drinking (HID)—in a sample of young adults. The study also explored differences in outcomes before and during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the springs of 2019 and 2020, 633 young adult drinkers completed 14 consecutive morning surveys (each year) characterizing the prior day’s affect, drinking motives, and alcohol use. The study examined between-person and within-person associations between affect and motives with two outcomes: 1) any drinking; and 2) drinking intensity on drinking days. On days when young adults reported greater enhancement motives, positive affect was strongly related to HID. During the early COVID-19 pandemic, young adults were more likely to report drinking, but did not drink more heavily unless they also reported drinking for social motives. Results suggest that heightened social, coping, and enhancement motives are risk factors for drinking in young adults. Findings also suggest that young adults perceive their mood to be better on drinking days, particularly when they are drinking to enhance positive affect. Young adults were more likely to drink on days when they reported high positive affect, and drank heavily when drinking to enhance their positive affect. Young adults were less likely to drink on days with high negative affect, but when they did drink on those days, they drank more heavily. Drinking to have fun with friends was also associated with heavier drinking, particularly after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This paper, “Daily associations between affect, drinking motives, and drinking intensity among U.S. young adults,” was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and published in the journal Psychology of addictive behaviors.

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