Social Support Indirectly Predicts Problem Drinking Through Reduced Psychological Distress

Chris Segrin, Melissa McNelis, Paulina Swiatkowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The experience of psychological distress can contribute to problem drinking in young adults. Social support can protect against the development of distress and thus may indirectly minimize problem drinking. Objective: To test a model of problem drinking in young adults based on the concepts of social support and psychological distress. Methods: A two-wave panel study was conducted over the course of one year, during 2014-15, with 211 university students (M age = 21.06 years, SD = 1.60 years) who completed online survey measures of problem drinking, various indicators of social support, and various indicators of psychological distress. Results: The data were analyzed with structural equation modeling. After controlling for concurrent problem drinking and psychological distress, there was no direct prospective effect of social support on problem drinking. However, social support predicted reductions in psychological distress over time, and this reduced psychological distress predicted reductions in problem drinking over time. Therefore, social support exhibited a significant indirect effect on problem drinking. Conclusion: Social support from friends, emotional support, and informational support combine to form a protective factor that mitigates the risk of problem drinking in young adults through reduced psychological distress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)608-615
Number of pages8
JournalSubstance Use and Misuse
Issue number5
StatePublished - Apr 15 2016


  • Problem drinking
  • depression
  • loneliness
  • psychological distress
  • social support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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