Category: Addictive Behaviors
There is growing concern over a trend in college students engaging in dietary restriction, exercise, and/or purging in an effort to compensate for calories consumed when drinking alcohol or to increase the effects of alcohol (Burke, Cremeens, Vail-Smith, & Woolsey, 2010; Rahal, Bryant, Darkes, Menzel, & Thompson, 2012). Previous research has found conflicting evidence for gender differences in these alcohol-related compensatory behaviors (Burke et al., 2010; Bryant, Darkes, & Rahal, 2012; Giles, Champion, Sutfin, McCoy, & Wagoner, 2009; Peralta, 2002; Rahal et al., 2012; Roosen & Mills, 2015), suggesting the need for additional research. In addition, there are unanswered questions about the consequences of alcohol-related compensatory behaviors. While dieting and disordered eating behaviors have been shown to be associated with greater risk of alcohol-related problems (e.g., Anderson, Simmons, Martens, Ferrier, & Sheehy, 2006; Krahn, Kurth, Gomberg, & Drewnowski, 2005), little research has examined the potential link between alcohol-related compensatory behaviors and alcohol-related problems (Giles et al., 2009). The current study, thus, sought to (i) evaluate the frequency of compensatory behaviors, (ii) examine potential gender differences in compensatory behaviors, and (iii) test whether compensatory behaviors are associated with alcohol-related problems and whether gender moderates that relation. One-hundred-and-five heavy-drinking undergraduates (52% male) completed a series of self-report measures assessing alcohol use and alcohol-related problems and compensatory behaviors. Fifty-two percent of participants endorsed engaging in one or more compensatory behaviors. There were no significant gender differences in individual compensatory behavior items or in total scores. Compensatory behaviors were positively and significantly associated with alcohol-related problems even after controlling for consumption and gender. Gender did not moderate this relation. Future research should examine these relations longitudinally, using a larger sample. If findings are replicated, intervention and prevention efforts should be directed towards individuals engaging in alcohol-related compensatory behaviors, as they appear to be at higher risk of having alcohol-related problems. Efforts should target both men and women.