Associations between alcohol demand and both the experience and subjective evaluation of positive and negative alcohol-related consequences
Considerable variation exists in the extent to which alcohol-related consequences are evaluated as positive or negative. These evaluations, in turn, predict subsequent alcohol use behavior. Understanding the etiological pathways to positive and negative alcohol-related consequences is essential to the design of interventions aimed at reducing alcohol use consequences.
Behavioral economic models posit that excessive alcohol valuation contributes to problematic use.
Elevated alcohol demand (i.e., relative alcohol value) is associated with negative alcohol-related consequences; however, it is unclear whether demand is related to positive consequences or subjective consequence evaluations.
College student alcohol users (n = 114; 74.6% female) completed an online survey. Participants indicated whether they had ever experienced any of 24 negative and 14 positive consequences and subjectively evaluated their most recent experience of each consequence endorsed.
An alcohol purchase task assessed hypothetical alcohol consumption across 14 prices and three observed demand indices were calculated:
- intensity (i.e., consumption at zero cost),
- Omax (i.e., maximum expenditure), and
- Pmax (i.e., price associated with maximum expenditure).
Bivariate correlations and hierarchical regressions were used to test associations between observed demand indices and the number and subjective evaluations of positive and negative (researcher- and participant-defined) consequences.
Intensity and Omax, but not Pmax, were bivariately associated with researcher- and participant-defined negative and positive consequences. However, in hierarchical regression models that controlled for the maximum number of alcoholic drinks consumed in a single day over the past month, only intensity was significantly associated with more negative and positive consequences.
Intensity was associated with positive consequence evaluations in bivariate but not regression models.
Students with higher intensity reported more prior alcohol consequences (positive and negative), independent of alcohol consumption level. However, subjective evaluations of recent consequences did not vary as a function of demand.
Results support using behavioral economic models to facilitate identifying etiologic pathways to alcohol consequences and suggest that novel interventions incorporating demand manipulation may reduce alcohol use consequences.