Life Stress, Physiological and Subjective Indexes of Negative Emotionality, and Coping Reasons for Drinking: Is There Evidence for a Self-Medication Model of Alcohol Use?

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Alcohol use is often viewed as means of coping with distress, but support for this model has been inconsistent. The author examined stress and negative emotionality and their interaction as predictors of drinking motives in a sample of college drinkers. Both physiological and self-reported reactivity to a mood induction, and self-reported trait negative affect, were assessed. High stress was associated with coping motives, particularly among individuals who exhibited electrodermal reactivity to the mood induction. Respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) reactivity was associated with coping motives. Electrodermal and RSA reactivity and stress were unrelated to enhancement and social motives. Self-reported mood reactivity and trait negative affect were not associated with any of the drinking motives. These findings offer some support for the self-medication model of alcohol use.

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