The impact of protective behavioral strategies on the relationship between the negative consequences of alcohol use and anxiety sensitivity
Alcohol consumption among college students continues to be a concern on college campuses. It is estimated that a large majority (83%) of college students use alcohol (Johnston, O'Malley, Bachman, & Schulenberg, 2008). The negative consequences of alcohol consumption range broadly in both domain and degree of harm to the individual and society. Protective behavioral strategies (PBS) can be utilized to reduce the degree of negative consequences of alcohol consumption when people choose to drink. Many college students report that they drink to reduce anxiety they experience in social situations or to reduce the stress and anxiety they experience due to the demands of school (Novak, Burgess, Clark, Zvolensky, & Brown, 2003; Stewart & Zeitlin, 1995). Some individuals are more prone to experience anxiety and experience a greater degree of discomfort at the prospect of becoming anxious thus increasing their propensity for using alcohol to reduce this discomfort. Some individuals are more sensitive to the symptoms of anxiety than others, and are more sensitive to the fear of symptoms associated with the experience of anxiety such as somatic symptoms, social consequences, and loss of mental control from anxiety. A term that has been created in related literature is anxiety sensitivity. Anxiety sensitivity is the fear of the symptoms of anxiety including the fear of somatic symptoms, the fear of social consequences of anxiety, and the fear of losing control mentally (Reiss, Peterson, & Gursky, 1988). The present study examines the relationships among alcohol consumption, anxiety sensitivity, PBS and the negative consequences of alcohol consumption among college student drinkers. This study was part of a larger project examining alcohol consumption, negative consequences and protective strategies in which 706 undergraduate students at a mid-sized university in the southeastern United States completed the Daily Drinking Questionnaire, Protective Behavioral Strategies Scale, the Young Adult Alcohol Problems Screening Test - Brief Version, and the Anxiety Sensitivity Index. It was hypothesized that anxiety sensitivity would be negatively related to use of PBS. A weak positive correlation was found between anxiety sensitivity and PBS use. Further, it was hypothesized that anxiety sensitivity would moderate the relationship between alcohol consumption and negative alcohol-related consequences. Anxiety sensitivity did not moderate this relationship. Amount of alcohol consumed did emerge as a predictor of the negative consequences of alcohol consumption. Lastly, it was hypothesized that anxiety sensitivity would moderate the relationship between PBS use and alcohol-related negative consequences. Anxiety sensitivity did not moderate this relationship, however. PBS use did emerge as a predictor of the negative consequences of alcohol consumption.