Data mining-based profiles of emerging adults at elevated risk for negative alcohol use consequences
Background: Previous research has identified predictors of risky alcohol use in young adults, with early age of onset of alcohol use, positive expectations about alcohol, and other drug use or gender being important risk factors. Nevertheless, the role of emotional dysregulation (ED) and its relationships with other risk factors remains to be determined in the specific population of emerging adults. This study sought to identify profiles of Spanish young adults at high risk of developing negative alcohol use consequences based on alcohol use (quantity) in the past month, ED, and mental health. We hypothesized that ED would predict alcohol use consequences, over and above mental health variables.
Methods: A total of 2,828 emerging adults [Mage(SD)= 19.46(1.63)] filled-out an online battery assessment. Depression, anxiety, and stress were assessed using the DASS-21. ED (non-acceptance of emotional responses, lack of emotional control, awareness, clarity, and goals) was assessed using the DERS-28. Alcohol-related variables were the drinks consumed each day of a typical week in the last month (DDQ) and the BYAACQ. All were examined as potential predictors of alcohol use consequences using a decision tree model with Classification and Regression Tree algorithm.
Results: Past-month alcohol use was 89.8% (1541/1716). Sex, higher frequency and quantity of alcohol use in the last month, and ED strategies significantly predict alcohol use consequences. Females scoring between .50 and 19.50 in the DDQ and >16.50 in the lack of emotional control DERS dimension are at particularly risk for more severe alcohol use consequences. In males, more vulnerable individuals were characterized by DDQ scores ≥ 9.50 and >17.50 in non-acceptance of emotional responses.
Conclusion: ED permits to identify college students at particularly high risk of developing alcohol use consequences. There exist sex differences in ED difficulties. Promoting adaptive emotional regulation may turn potentially effective for preventing negative alcohol use consequences in young adults.