Coping style mediates impact of stress on alcohol use: a prospective population-based study

Marja Y Veenstra, Paul H H M Lemmens, Ingrid H M Friesema, Frans E S Tan, Henk F L Garretsen, J André Knottnerus, Paul J Zwietering
Addiction 2007, 102 (12): 1890-8

AIMS: This study examines the relationship between stressful life-events and alcohol use in a longitudinal cohort study, and investigates whether gender, coping style and social support modify this relationship.

DESIGN, SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS: Data analysed in this paper come from a sample of 1608 men and 1645 women drawn randomly from the cohort known as the Dutch Lifestyle and Health Study, consisting of 16,210 men and women aged 45-70 years, who were followed-up for 4 years (1996-2000).

MEASUREMENT: Alcohol use (recent and in the more distant past), occurrence of threatening life-events, coping style (action, cognitive and emotion coping), social support (perceived, actual support and social contacts) and other potential confounding factors were assessed with five annual self-administered questionnaires. The data were analysed with a mixed-effects modelling technique, controlling for interactions with time and gender.

FINDINGS AND CONCLUSION: An interaction effect was found between experiencing a negative life-event and emotion coping on alcohol use. A positive relationship was found between the occurrence of negative life-events and alcohol use in subjects scoring high on emotion coping, and a negative one among subjects scoring low on emotion coping. Cognitive coping, action coping, actual support, social contacts and gender did not modify the relationship between life-events and alcohol use. However, having a more cognitive coping style or more social contacts was associated with a lower level of alcohol use, whereas having an action coping style and receiving more actual social support was associated with a higher drinking level. It seems plausible that people scoring high on emotion coping, characterized by a passive, resigned, indulgent and self-accusatory coping style, increase their alcohol use after experiencing a negative life-event.

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