The role of psychological distress in the relationship between drinking motives and hazardous drinking in older adults

Yannic Van Gils, Erik Franck, Eva Dierckx, Sebastiaan P.j. Van Alphen, Geert Dom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Drinking motives seem to be the most proximal predictors of alcohol outcomes. Consequently, these are an essential factor to consider as they may influence the extent to which alcohol is used in a risky way, even in older adults.

We studied the moderating effect of distress on the relationship between drinking motives and drinking behaviour in a community-dwelling older adult sample.

In a retrospective cross-sectional research study, participants were community-dwelling older adults aged 65 years and older. All respondents completed a questionnaire covering the Drinking Motives Questionnaire (DMQ), the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), and the General Severity Index (GSI) of the Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI).

In this sample of 1,148 older adults, drinking motives and hazardous alcohol use were associated (enhancement motives r = 0.478, p < 0.001; coping motives r = 0.367, p < 0.001; and social motives r = 0.235, p < 0.001). Furthermore, moderation analysis showed that older adults drinking predominantly for enhancement or coping motives (respectively, β = 0.433, CI [95%] = 2.557–3.222 and β = 0.327, CI [95%] = 1.077–1.491, p < 0.001), and older adults who had higher levels of psychological distress (β = 2.518, CI [95%] = 2.017–3.019, p < 0.001) were more likely to report higher degree of hazardous alcohol use.

The relations between coping drinking motives and enhancement drinking motives on hazardous drinking depended on the level of distress. The associations between drinking for coping and drinking for enhancement were stronger in high levels of distress. Although causality cannot be interpreted from cross-sectional data, tackling psychological distress and drinking to cope with negative affect or to enhance positive affect might have strong effects on reducing hazardous drinking behaviour among older adults.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-41
JournalEuropean Addiction Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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