Behavioral economics and coping-related drinking motives in trauma exposed drinkers: Implications for the self-medication hypothesis


Behavioral economic theory can help researchers understand complex behavior by considering the availability and economic value associated with an individual's choices. This study explored how behavioral economic constructs relate to alcohol consumption and alcohol problems in a sample of trauma-exposed young adults. We further explored whether these behavioral economic constructs explained unique variance in alcohol outcomes beyond coping-related drinking motives. Participants were 91 trauma-exposed young adults who reported recent alcohol consumption (Mage = 26.53, female = 36.26%, non-White = 41.75%). Participants were recruited through Amazon Mechanical Turk. Questionnaires measured alcohol consumption, problems, and motives for use, as well as alcohol demand, delay discounting, future orientation, and access to environmental reward. Future orientation (ΔR2 = .05, p = .03) and delay discounting (ΔR2 = .04, p = .05) explained unique variance in alcohol problems after controlling for coping-related drinking motives. Further, alcohol demand indices (ΔR2s = .04-.10, ps - .00-.05) explained unique variance in alcohol consumption after controlling for coping-related drinking. Both coping motives and behavioral economic variables contribute to alcohol consumption and alcohol-related consequences among trauma-exposed young adults. Findings suggest that, beyond coping motives, behavioral economics may play a meaningful role in understanding alcohol misuse.

Publication Title

Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology