Drinking to Cope in the COVID-19 Era: An Investigation Among College Students
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in abrupt, drastic changes to daily life in many nations. Experiences within the United States have varied widely. In the State of Oregon in the early months of the pandemic protective protocols (e.g., physical distancing) were comparatively high, resulting in concern for increases in loneliness and COVID-related stress. The present study of college students examined the indirect relationship of loneliness and other stressors to alcohol use, via using alcohol to cope motives.
A sample of traditional- and nontraditional-aged college students (N = 215; 68.1% female; mean age = 24.8 years) completed an online survey assessing COVID-19 experiences during shelter-in-place orders in Oregon over a 5-week period in April and May of 2020.
Cross-sectional structural equational modeling revealed that loneliness and COVID-19 news consumption were associated with stronger coping motives, whereas rated seriousness of COVID-19 was related to weaker coping motives. Coping motives, in turn, were related to more frequent past-30-day consumption; significant indirect effects were revealed for all three predictors on alcohol use frequency and heavy alcohol use frequency, via using alcohol-to-cope motives. Using alcohol-to-cope motives were also related to greater past-30-day marijuana use.
These findings provide insight into how COVID-related stressors and associated social relationship repercussions relate to alcohol and marijuana use and using alcohol-to-cope motivations while sheltering in place. These results have implications for how frequent substance use and coping-motivated use can be mitigated during a crisis.