Our analysis of data from a representative sample (over 6000) of the UK population aged 18-75, looked into the interaction between three factors: mental well-being, harmful drinking and drinking motivations. This research was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health on the 25th June 2018. Below is an overview of what we found; you can read the full paper here (http://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/15/7/1333/htm).
Harmful drinking and well-being are linked
People with more harmful drinking are more likely to have low mental well-being, rising from 14.7% among low risk drinkers to more than one in four (27.3%) among probable dependence drinkers. These findings are supported by other research, which has found that binge drinking, hazardous drinking, and high-volume drinking are associated with poorer mental health.
Drinking motivation and well-being are linked
Among adults in the UK with low mental well-being, almost three in four (72.8%) drank to cope, compared to just over a third (35.1%) of those with high mental well-being. The finding that a large proportion of those with low mental well-being drink for coping reasons is in line with previous research examining the link between low mood and drinking to cope.
How harmful drinking, motivations and well-being interact
Looking at the interaction of all three variables we found that while drinking to cope is a significant contributor to low mental well-being, this contribution is stronger when divided by the harmful drinking category. Among those who drink to cope, the more harmful drinkers are more likely to have low well-being compared to less harmful drinkers.
How much different factors influence well-being
Uniquely, the study examined the extent to which of the different factors predicted mental well-being. It was found that, while the level of harmful drinking explained some of the variance (0.6%), the single biggest predictor of well-being was a person’s drinking motivation (4.5%). In addition, it was found that age, education level, and social grade combined explained just over 5% of the difference in mental well-being, whereas gender was found not to have any effect. This finding shows that, although mental well-being is directly linked with levels of harmful drinking, the motivation for drinking is a stronger predictor of mental well-being.
Implications of the research
Understanding these interrelations between mental well-being, harmful drinking, and drinking motivations may help inform efforts both to identify individuals who could be more effectively supported to reduce their drinking through better mental health and to engage individuals to take steps to reduce their alcohol consumption through the prospect of experiencing higher well-being. In particular, it should be considered whether alternative support and guidance could be provided to reduce the incidence of harmful drinking resulting from people drinking to cope with poor mental well-being.
Read the full paper here