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Alcoholism & Addiction

Testing the Relationship between Alcohol and Internalizing Problems in Young Adults

The effects of alcohol have been examined to test its impact in many different areas, including family relationships, academics and work performance. Pathological behaviors associated with alcohol have shown patterns where those three areas are deteriorated as alcohol dependence increases.

However, many areas have been unexplored, such as how alcohol consumption affects how problems are processed, and how different levels of drinking impact the results.

A recent study examined the effects of alcohol on processing problems. Vanheusden, van Lenthe, Mulder, van der Ende, van de Mheen, Mackenbach and Verhulst studied in 2008 the relationship between internalizing and externalizing problems across a spectrum of alcohol consumption.

The study looked at the levels of internalizing and externalizing problems across a wide range of alcohol consumption in young adults. It also examined whether social factors might account for the relationship between alcohol and internalizing and externalizing problems.

The researchers established a cross-sectional random sample study among 2, 258 young adults from the general population of the southwest region Netherlands. The participants were split into groups according to their drinking behaviors.

The groups were identified as nondrinkers, occasional drinkers and regular drinkers. The drinkers were further identified as low-level drinkers (one to two drinks per occasion), higher-level drinkers (three to four drinks per occasion) or excessive drinkers (five or more drinks per occasion).

The study measured internalization and externalization of problems, social support and negative social exchange through the use of standardized questionnaires.

The result of the study show a U-shaped association found between alcohol consumption and various internalization problems. Low social support was associated with internalization of problems in nondrinkers and negative social exchange was associated with higher levels of internalization of problems among excessive drinkers.

A J-shaped association was indicated between alcohol consumption and aggressive behavior. There were higher rates for occasional and excessive drinkers than their low-level drinker counterparts.

Associations between alcohol consumption and externalizing problems could partly be explained by negative social exchange.

There was a difference found between both nondrinkers and excessive drinkers and low-level drinkers in risk factors for poor mental health. The risk factors may predict their mental health problems.

More information may be required to further understand how alcohol consumption impacts internalization or externalization of problems. Interventions that combat the effects of negative social exchange may be helpful in reducing excessive drinking habits and decreasing mental health problems for those at risk.
 

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