Alcohol, Moods and Male-Female Differences

Daily Interactive Voice Response Over 6 Months

Published in: Alcohol and Alcoholism, v. 49, no. 1, Jan./Feb. 2014, p. 60-65

Posted on RAND.org on September 12, 2014

by Valerie S. Harder, Lynsay Ayer, Gail L. Rose, Magdalena R. Naylor, John E. Helzer

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Research Questions

  1. How does alcohol consumption affect anger, sadness, and happiness?
  2. How do anger, sadness, and happiness affect alcohol consumption?

AIMS: The goal of this study was to better understand the predictive relationship in both directions between negative (anger, sadness) and positive (happiness) moods and alcohol consumption using daily process data among heavy drinkers. METHODS: Longitudinal daily reports of moods, alcohol use and other covariates such as level of stress were assessed over 180 days using interactive voice response telephone technology. Participants were heavy drinkers (majority meeting criteria for alcohol dependence at baseline) recruited through their primary care provider. The sample included 246 (166 men, 80 women) mostly Caucasian adults. Longitudinal statistical models were used to explore the varying associations between number of alcoholic drinks and mood scores the next day and vice versa with gender as a moderator. RESULTS: Increased alcohol use significantly predicted decreased happiness the next day (P < 0.005), more strongly for females than males. Increased anger predicted higher average alcohol use the next day for males only (P < 0.005). CONCLUSION: This daily process study challenges the notion that alcohol use enhances positive mood for both males and females. Our findings also suggest a strong association between anger and alcohol use that is specific to males. Thus, discussions about the effects of drinking on one's feeling of happiness may be beneficial for males and females as well as anger interventions may be especially beneficial for heavy-drinking males.

Key Findings

  • Increased alcohol use dampens a positive mood the next day, especially for women.
  • Increased anger causes men to drink more.

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