The Moderating Effects of College Stress on the Relationship Between Protective Behavioral Strategies and Alcohol Outcomes

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Background: Protective behavioral strategies (PBS) are harm reduction strategies used to lessen the negative effects of alcohol consumption. PBS controlled consumption (e.g., avoiding shots) center on managing alcohol consumption and tend to be negatively correlated with hazardous drinking whereas PBS serious harm reduction (e.g., having a designated driver) have a negative association with alcohol-related negative consequences. These relationships are often attenuated by factors such as mental health. Stress is linked with hazardous drinking and is experienced by most individuals. However, there are unique aspects of alcohol use and stressors associated with being in college (e.g., adjustment, academics) that require further investigation.

Objectives: The purpose of this study was to explore how college stress – specific stressors related to the college experience – moderated the relationships PBS types had with hazardous drinking and alcohol-related negative consequences while accounting for gender.

Methods: Participants were 550 college students ages 18 to 24 who drank alcohol within 30 days of completing measures of PBS use, college stress, hazardous drinking, and alcohol-related negative consequences.

Results: A negative association was found between PBS controlled consumption and hazardous drinking while a positive association was found between PBS serious harm reduction and hazardous drinking, but neither relationships were significantly moderated by college stress. A negative relationship was found between PBS serious harm reduction and alcohol-related negative consequences, which was strengthened for those with high levels of college stress.

Conclusion: These findings highlight the importance of further investigating the role of college stress in relation to safe and hazardous drinking and provide evidence for the protective role of PBS for college students experiencing stress and consuming alcohol.

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Substance Use & Misuse





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