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J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2009 Sep;70(5):704-13.

A longitudinal examination of alcohol use and subjective well-being in an undergraduate sample.

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Department of Psychology, Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada.



Notwithstanding well-established links between alcohol use and adverse alcohol-related consequences, evidence suggests that alcohol use among university students may also be associated with positive outcomes, including components of subjective well-being, which comprises life satisfaction, positive affect, and negative affect. Further, because alcohol use and consequences are separable factors, both need to be examined simultaneously to gauge the unique predictive role of alcohol use. We report findings from a longitudinal study of university students that addresses these important issues.


At the end of their first term at university (Time 1), 627 students (15% of all first-year students) completed a paper-and-pencil questionnaire in small group settings. Near the end of their third year (Time 2), 467 of the Time 1 respondents (75% follow-up rate) completed a subsequent survey on-line. The average (SD) longitudinal respondent was 18.83 (0.86) years old at Time 1, and 360 participants were female.


In cross-sectional and longitudinal structural equation models, adverse alcohol-related consequences predicted lower subjective well-being (lower life satisfaction, less frequent positive affect, more frequent negative affect). Independent of this effect, greater alcohol use (greater quantity/frequency, more frequent intoxication, heavy episodic drinking) predicted higher subjective well-being, both concurrently and prospectively.


Among these university students, alcohol use was uniquely associated with a more positive sense of well-being. A more comprehensive understanding of the significance of alcohol use among university students requires attending to positive and negative outcomes associated with alcohol use and examining alcohol use and consequences as related but separable factors.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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