Date of Award

Fall 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



Committee Director

Cathy Lau-Barraco

Committee Member

Barbara Winstead

Committee Member

Valerian Derlega


Depressive symptoms and alcohol use frequently coexist. In college students, the rates of depression and alcohol use are higher than in the general population, making this population at particular risk for co-occurrence of depressive symptoms and drinking. Though research has shown that depressive symptoms precede alcohol use and problems in non-clinical populations, it is unclear what mechanisms contribute to this relationship. Further exploration into how this relationship occurs could inform and improve intervention of depression and alcohol abuse on college campuses. This study sought to (1) assess three potential mediators (i.e., need for affect, distress tolerance, emotion regulation) to the relationship between depressive symptoms and alcohol use (i.e., quantity and problems), and (2) explore which of the proposed mechanisms best accounts for the relationship within each gender. Participants were 480 (65.4% female) college drinkers. Using path analysis, findings indicated that emotion regulation mediated the relationship between depressive symptoms and alcohol-related problems: however, it did not mediate the depressive symptoms-alcohol use link. Need for affect and distress tolerance were not supported as mediators between depressive symptoms and either alcohol use outcome. Invariance testing revealed that need for affect plays a larger role in this conceptual model for women than men, though model relationships through distress tolerance and emotion regulation did not vary based on gender. Overall, emotion regulation was found to explain the greatest amount of variance in the depressive symptoms-alcohol use link in both women and men. Future research may benefit from investigating this conceptual model in a higher risk population.


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