The role of distress tolerance in the relationship between depressive symptoms and problematic alcohol use

Psychol Addict Behav. 2012 Sep;26(3):621-6. doi: 10.1037/a0026386. Epub 2011 Nov 28.


Empirical evidence and theory implicate the role of distress tolerance in the relationship between negative affect and alcohol use. However, limited research has been conducted to explore these relationships. As such, the purpose of this study was to examine whether distress tolerance moderates the relationship between current depressive symptoms and problematic alcohol use in a community sample of adults. Participants included 150 adults, primarily female, recruited from the local community. Problematic alcohol use was measured using the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) total score, which is a composite measure of harmful and hazardous patterns of alcohol use and several current alcohol dependence symptoms. Distress tolerance was measured using a computerized behavioral distress tolerance task, the Computerized Paced Auditory Serial Addition Task (PASAT-C). Tobit regression analyses indicated a significant interaction between distress tolerance and depressive symptoms in predicting alcohol problems, such that depressive symptoms were significantly associated with problematic alcohol use among adults with low, but not high, distress tolerance. Thus, alcohol use interventions with a focus on distress tolerance skills in the context of depressive symptoms may be particularly effective.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology
  • Alcoholism / psychology*
  • Arousal*
  • Binge Drinking / epidemiology
  • Binge Drinking / psychology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Middle Aged
  • Parents / psychology
  • Risk Factors
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires