Age-related changes in associations between reasons for alcohol use and high-intensity drinking across young adulthood

Megan E. Patrick, Rebecca Evans-Polce, Deborah D. Kloska, Jennifer L. Maggs, Stephanie T. Lanza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Objective: Analyses focus on whether self-reported reasons for drinking alcohol change in their associations with high-intensity drinking across the transition to adulthood. Method: Self-report data on high-intensity drinking (10+ drinks) collected from the national Monitoring the Future study in 2005 to 2014 from those ages 18–26 were used (N = 2,664 [60% women] for all drinkers and 1,377 for heavy episodic [5+] drinkers; up to 6,541 person-waves). Time-varying effect modeling examined changes in the direction and magnitude of associations between eight reasons for drinking and high-intensity alcohol use across continuous age. Results: Four reasons to drink showed quite stable associations with high-intensity drinking across age: drinking to get away from problems, to get high, to relax, and to sleep. Associations between two reasons and high-intensity drinking decreased with age: anger/frustration and to have a good time. The association between drinking because of boredom and high-intensity drinking increased with age. Drinking because it tastes good had a weak association with highintensity drinking. Among heavy episodic drinkers, reasons for use also differentiated high-intensity drinking, with two exceptions: drinking to have a good time and to relax did not distinguish drinking 10+ drinks from drinking 5–9 drinks. Conclusions: Reasons for drinking are differentially associated with high-intensity drinking, compared with any other drinking and compared with lower intensity heavy drinking, across age during the transition to adulthood. Intervention programs seeking to mitigate alcohol-related harms should focus on reasons for use when they are the most developmentally salient.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)558-570
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of studies on alcohol and drugs
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was funded by support from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (Grants R01AA023504 to Megan E. Patrick and R01AA002087 to Christine M. Lee for manuscript preparation) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (Grants R01DA037902 to Megan E. Patrick, R01DA039854 to Stephanie T. Lanza, and P50DA039838 to Linda M. Collins for manuscript preparation; and R01DA001411 and R01DA016575 to Lloyd D. Johnston for data collection and manuscript preparation). The content here is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the sponsors.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, Alcohol Research Documentation Inc. All rights reserved.


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