Age-related changes in associations between reasons for alcohol use and high-intensity drinking across young adulthood

Megan E. Patrick, Rebecca Evans-Polce, Deborah D. Kloska, Jennifer L. Maggs, Stephanie T. Lanza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Objective: Analyses focus on whether self-reported reasons for drinking alcohol change in their associations with high-intensity drinking across the transition to adulthood. Method: Self-report data on high-intensity drinking (10+ drinks) collected from the national Monitoring the Future study in 2005 to 2014 from those ages 18–26 were used (N = 2,664 [60% women] for all drinkers and 1,377 for heavy episodic [5+] drinkers; up to 6,541 person-waves). Time-varying effect modeling examined changes in the direction and magnitude of associations between eight reasons for drinking and high-intensity alcohol use across continuous age. Results: Four reasons to drink showed quite stable associations with high-intensity drinking across age: drinking to get away from problems, to get high, to relax, and to sleep. Associations between two reasons and high-intensity drinking decreased with age: anger/frustration and to have a good time. The association between drinking because of boredom and high-intensity drinking increased with age. Drinking because it tastes good had a weak association with highintensity drinking. Among heavy episodic drinkers, reasons for use also differentiated high-intensity drinking, with two exceptions: drinking to have a good time and to relax did not distinguish drinking 10+ drinks from drinking 5–9 drinks. Conclusions: Reasons for drinking are differentially associated with high-intensity drinking, compared with any other drinking and compared with lower intensity heavy drinking, across age during the transition to adulthood. Intervention programs seeking to mitigate alcohol-related harms should focus on reasons for use when they are the most developmentally salient.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)558-570
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of studies on alcohol and drugs
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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