Research indicates that young adults have relatively high rates of psychological distress and substance use. Research also suggests that psychological distress and substance use are correlated as individuals may turn to substance use as a coping mechanism for psychological distress. The goal of the current research is to examine the relationship between psychological distress and substance use among college students. A secondary question is to determine if the relationship between psychological distress and substance use is different for men and women. College students are a good sample for this research question for a number of reasons. First, more young adults are enrolled in college today than ever, with about 70% of high school graduates in 2011 enrolling in college the following fall. Second, research indicates that the prevalence of substance use is relatively high among college students and that young adults enrolled in college are at increased risk for certain types of substance use compared to their same age peers who do not attend college. Third, research indicates that college students are at greater risk for psychological distress compared to their same age peers who do not attend college. This may be due to the fact that college students are exposed to unique stressors that are likely to increase risk for psychological distress. The current research uses data from a sample of college students to examine the relationship between psychological distress and substance use. Several forms of substance use are included for the dependent variable. First, a measure of binge drinking is used based on the Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study to measure binge drinking. Second, a measure of marijuana use is included. Third, a measure of prescription drug misuse is included based on the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. All substance use measures are coded 0 = No and 1 = Yes.; The independent variable of interest is psychological distress, measured with Kessler's Psychological Distress Scale (K10). We also measure respondent's sociodemographic characteristics (e.g., age, gender, race/ethnicity) and correlates of substance use (e.g., Greek affiliation, peer substance use, and grades) to include as controls in our analysis. A positive correlation is expected between psychological distress and substance use, as respondents with higher levels of psychological distress will be more likely to report binge drinking, marijuana use, and prescription drug misuse. In addition, it is expected that the relationship between psychological distress and all forms of substance use is moderated by gender. The relationship between psychological distress and substance use is expected to be stronger for females. To test research hypotheses several logistic regression models are estimated.
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Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)
College of Sciences
Dissertations, Academic -- Sciences;Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic
Length of Campus-only Access
Honors in the Major Thesis
Messer, Katelynn, "Psychological distress and substance use among college students" (2013). HIM 1990-2015. 1436.