I drink alone: Mechanisms of risk for alcohol problems in solitary drinkers

William R. Corbin, Jack T. Waddell, Alex Ladensack, Caitlin Scott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Although solitary drinking is less common than social drinking, it may be uniquely associated with heavy drinking and alcohol-related problems. There is also evidence that drinking contexts impact both expected and experienced alcohol effects. In particular, solitary drinking may be associated with an increased likelihood of drinking for negative reinforcement (e.g. to relieve stress). The current study examined how drinking context influences tension reduction expectancies and drinking motives, and the extent to which expectancies and motives mediate the link between solitary drinking and alcohol-related problems. We hypothesized that solitary drinking would be associated with greater tension reduction expectancies and coping motives which, in turn, would be associated with more alcohol related problems. Data were from 157 young adult moderate to heavy drinkers (21–30 years of age, 57% male) who completed baseline assessments in an alcohol administration study. A path model in Mplus tested the hypothesized mediated effects. Findings largely supported study hypotheses with significant indirect effects of solitary drinking (but not social drinking) on alcohol problems through stronger tension reduction expectancies and coping motives, though an indirect path through coping motives (but not expectancies) was also identified. Multi-group models by gender and race/ethnicity found that models operated similarly for men and women and for Non-Hispanic Caucasian and Racial/Ethnic Minority participants. The results provide important information about potential mechanisms through which solitary drinking may contribute to alcohol problems. These mechanisms represent potential targets of intervention (e.g. tension reduction expectancies, drinking to cope) for solitary drinkers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106147
JournalAddictive Behaviors
StatePublished - Mar 2020


  • Alcohol problems
  • Coping motives
  • Solitary drinking
  • Tension reduction expectancies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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