Posttraumatic Growth Associated With Perceived Changes in Health Values and Reduced Alcohol Use Among Bereaved College Students

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High rates of alcohol consumption have been reported among college students in the United States and are associated with experiencing highly stressful life events, such as death of a loved one. Studies have demonstrated, however, that positive psychological changes can occur resulting from the struggle with such life experiences, a phenomenon known as posttraumatic growth (PTG). The current study examined the relationships between PTG and perceived changes in health values and alcohol consumption among college students who lost someone close in comparison with students who experienced other types of stressful events. College students (N = 390) completed the PTG Inventory and responded to items assessing perceived changes in health values and alcohol usage. Results indicated that PTG was associated with positive health values and reduced alcohol use; however, the relationships differed depending on the types of PTG experienced and on whether death of someone close was experienced, as well as whether death was identified as the participants’ most stressful experience. The findings suggest the domains of PTG, specifically Relating to Others and New Possibilities, were associated with positive changes in health values and reduced alcohol usage in those who lost their loved ones. PTG domains should be considered in future research when explaining the possibility of PTG leading to positive changes in health behaviors.

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