Category: Adult Anxiety - Social
Background: A preponderance of evidence has indicated that elevated social anxiety is associated with an increased risk of developing alcohol-related problems. However, recent research examining risk factors in this relationship has been varied, with some studies indicating that gender is a critical factor (Batista et al., 2014) while others have suggested that motivation to drink (Clerkin et al., 2014; Shry & White, 2013), may play a critical role. The current study sought to examine both of these risk factors in a combined model of the relationship between social anxiety and alcohol-related problems in order to ascertain whether an interaction between gender and drinking motives may further explain this relationship more fully.
Method: 180 subjects between the ages of 18 and 35, who endorsed having consumed at least one drink in the past month, completed several self-report assessments including a demographics and drinking history questionnaire created by the researchers, Social Interaction Anxiety Scale (SIAS), the Rutgers Alcohol Problems Index (RAPI), and the Drinking Motives Questionnaire-Revised (DMQ-R).
Results: Findings indicate that, when controlling for age, using multiple regression, the interaction between social anxiety and alcohol-related problems was significant, B = .20, B(se) = .09, t = 2.25, p = .03 in the sample as a whole, but when we included gender as a moderator, we found that the relationship was not significant for women, B = -.04, B(se) = .05, t = -.75, p = .46, but was significant for men, B = .1598, B(se) = .07, t = 2.19, p = .03.
When coping motives were then introduced into the model as well, we found that they mediated the relationship between social anxiety and alcohol-related problems B = .68, se(B) = .25, t = 2.75, p = .01, such that while it was significant for women B =.6379, se(B) = .13, t = 4.94, p = .01 and for men, B = 1.32, se(B) = .21, t = 6.23, p = .01, but that the effect was almost twice as strong in men.
Conclusion: Our results suggest that gender plays a significant role in the relationship between social anxiety and alcohol-related problems. More specifically, when we compared the men and women in our sample we found a significant relationship between social anxiety and alcohol-related problems in the male group but not the female group. However, when incorporating drinking motives into this relationship, we found that both men and women high in social anxiety tended to drink to cope with their anxiety, which led to having a higher risk for alcohol-related problems. When examining the degree to which coping motives increase the risk for alcohol-related problems in both genders, we found that men high in social anxiety, who drink to cope with that anxiety, were almost twice as likely to have alcohol-related problems as women.
These results may provide further evidence of the complexity of the relationship between social anxiety and alcohol-related problems as well as the importance of accounting for other factors, such as gender and drinking motives, when conceptualizing risk and treatment. Clinically speaking, these findings highlight the importance of considering the role that coping motives play, particularly in socially anxious men, in increasing the risk for alcohol-related problems.
Washington, District Of Columbia