Does loneliness before the age of twelve indirectly affect impaired control over drinking, alcohol use, and problems through perceived stress?

S. Berberian, J. A. Patock-Peckham, K. Guarino, T. Gupta, F. Sanabria, F. Infurna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Loneliness is the pain of feeling socially isolated from others (Russell et al., 1980). The Stress-Dampening Hypothesis (Marlatt, 1987; Sayette, 1993; Sher, 1987) posits that individuals drink to alleviate negative affect. To date, it has not been determined whether loneliness experienced as a child can indirectly influence at-risk patterns of alcohol use through the mediating mechanism of stress and impaired control. Impaired control over alcohol use (IC) is the difficulty adhering to one's own self-proscribed limits on drinking behaviors (Heather et al., 1993). Impaired control is an at-risk pattern of use that is particularly relevant to emerging adults. Methods: We examined the direct and indirect relationships between childhood loneliness, stress, IC, and alcohol-related problems with a structural equation model. In a college student sample, we utilized a (k = 20,000) bootstrap technique and a model indirect command in Mplus to examine potential mediational pathways. Cisgender sex was included as a covariate. Results: Loneliness was directly linked to stress as well as to alcohol-related problems. Higher levels of loneliness were indirectly linked to both more alcohol use and alcohol-related problems through more stress and in turn, more impaired control over drinking. Conclusions: The current study is consistent with the Stress Dampening Hypothesis (Marlatt, 1987; Sayette, 1993; Sher, 1987). Our findings suggest that therapeutic interventions combating loneliness in childhood may disrupt the stress-dampening pathway to dysregulated alcohol use in emerging adulthood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100448
JournalAddictive Behaviors Reports
Volume16
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2022

Keywords

  • Alcohol use
  • Impaired control over alcohol
  • Lonely
  • Stress
  • Stress dampening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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