Future So Bright? Delay Discounting and Consideration of Future Consequences Predict Academic Performance Among College Drinkers

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Abstract

College student drinking is a major public health concern and can result in a range of negative consequences, from acute health risks to decreased academic performance and drop out. Harm reduction interventions have been developed to reduce problems associated with drinking but there is a need to identify specific risk/protective factors related to academic performance among college drinkers. Behavioral economics suggests that chronic alcohol misuse reflects a dysregulated behavioral process or reinforcer pathology—alcohol is overvalued and the value of prosocial rewards are sharply discounted due, in part, to their delay. This study examined delay discounting, consideration of future consequences (CFC) and protective behavioral strategies (PBS) as predictors of academic success (grade point average; GPA) and engagement (time devoted to academic activities) among 393 college drinkers (61% female). In multivariate models, PBS were associated with greater academic engagement, but were not with academic success. Lower discounting of delayed rewards and greater CFC were associated with both academic success and engagement among drinkers. Previous research suggests that future time orientation is malleable, and the current results provide support for efforts to enhance future time orientation as part of alcohol harm-reduction approaches.

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