Examining Subgroups of Depression and Alcohol Misuse in Emerging Adults During University: a Replication and Extension Study

Abstract

Alcohol misuse and depression are highly comorbid. Self-medication theory posits that depressed individuals use alcohol to reduce negative emotions. Research suggests that the co-pattern of depression and alcohol misuse is not uniform, and that emerging adults transitioning out of university can be differentiated into subgroups based on their co-patterns. We aimed to replicate and extend this study with emerging adults during university by examining whether baseline individual differences predicted subgroup membership. Undergraduates (N = 300) completed four waves of self-reports at 6-month intervals over 18-months. Parallel process latent class growth modeling supported three classes: Class 1, the “high-risk comorbid” group, had high stable depression and high stable alcohol misuse (n = 28). Class 2, the “moderate-risk depression-only group” had high stable depression but low decreasing alcohol misuse (n = 87). Class 3, the “low-risk normative” group, had low stable depression and low decreasing alcohol misuse (n = 185). Multinomial regressions showed that male sex, higher hopelessness, impulsivity, and anxiety sensitivity, and higher coping-with-depression and enhancement drinking motives, differentiated Class 1 from Class 3. Higher impulsivity and lower hopelessness, and higher enhancement motives, differentiated Class 1 from Class 2. Higher hopelessness, and higher coping-with-depression and conformity motives, differentiated Class 2 from Class 3. We utilized a subclinical sample and a short follow-up period. Emerging adults display differing co-patterns of depression and alcohol misuse over time during university, including both high-, moderate-, and low-risk subgroups. Our results provide novel evidence subgroups that can be distinguished based on sex, drinking motives, and personality.

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Funding

This research was supported by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council to Drs. Stewart and Sherry (grant number 410-2009-1043).

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Correspondence to Jona R. Frohlich.

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All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000 (5). Informed consent was obtained from all patients for being included in the study.

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This research was supported by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council to Drs. Stewart and Sherry (grant number 410-2009-1043). The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest. All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000 (5). Informed consent was obtained from all patients for being included in the study. All authors contributed meaningfully to the manuscript. Drs. Stewart and Sherry conceptualized and ran the larger study. Dr. Keough and Ms. Orui and analyzed the data. Ms. Frohlich and Ms. Orui conducted literature searches and wrote the first draft of the manuscript. Drs. Stewart, Sherry, and Keough provided significant feedback on all aspects of the paper. Ms. Frohlich applied said feedback. The final manuscript reflects the combined substantial effort of all co-authors and together we declare that we approve of this submission.

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Orui, K., Frohlich, J.R., Stewart, S.H. et al. Examining Subgroups of Depression and Alcohol Misuse in Emerging Adults During University: a Replication and Extension Study. Int J Ment Health Addiction (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11469-020-00325-w

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Keywords

  • Undergraduates
  • Depression
  • Alcohol
  • Personality
  • Drinking motives