Solitary drinking among youth is influenced by social discomfort, especially for girls


Newswise — Although drinking alone does not necessarily mean that someone has a drinking problem, solitary drinking by youth is alarming for several reasons: it may lead to heavier drinking, numerous psychosocial problems, and long-term alcohol problems. Findings from two large samples of underage drinkers show that solitary drinking can be influenced by social discomfort, especially among underage female drinkers. These results and others will be shared at the 42ndannual scientific meeting of the Research Society on Alcoholism (RSA) in Minneapolis, June 22-26, 2019.

“Solitary drinking among youth appears to be an early warning sign for the escalation of drinking and a risk factor for the development of an alcohol use disorder,” said Carillon Skrzynski, a doctoral candidate in psychology at Carnegie Mellon University. “Research suggests that youth engage in solitary drinking primarily to self-medicate to avoid or escape negative emotion. Solitary drinkers use drinking as a coping mechanism more than their peers who only drink socially. Moreover, studies show that experiencing negative affect – emotions such as anger, fear, anxiety, sadness, and depression – as well as social conflict and loneliness at earlier time-points predict later solitary drinking.”

Skrzynskiwill discuss these findings at the RSA meeting on Sunday, June 23.

“We examined two large samples, 1,174 underage drinkers. We showed that negative motives – such as drinking to cope – drives solitary drinking, and that this relationship is moderated by social discomfort, especially for underage female drinkers,” said Skrzynski. ‘Social discomfort’ consists of experiences such as loneliness, social anxiety, and a lack of perceived social support.

“We are hopeful that our data will inform the creation of more effective intervention and prevention programs for risky drinking practices, such as solitary drinking,” said Skrzynski. “By knowing why individuals engage in solitary drinking, and who may be most vulnerable to this drinking pattern, we can better target individuals most in need of help and provide effective treatment.”


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