Acute stress increases voluntary consumption of alcohol in undergraduates

Alcohol Alcohol. 2015 Mar;50(2):213-8. doi: 10.1093/alcalc/agu101. Epub 2015 Jan 3.


Aims: The primary aim of this study was to assess whether an acute stressor directly increases alcohol intake among undergraduates. A secondary aim was to examine whether individual differences in state anxiety predict alcohol intake.

Method: Following random assignment, undergraduate students (n = 75; 47% males; mean age = 20.1 ± 2.8) completed the Trier Social Stress Test or no-stress protocol, and then engaged in a 30-min free-drinking session (alcohol, placebo, or non-alcoholic beverage). The State-Trait Anxiety Inventory was completed upon arrival, post-stressor, and after drinking.

Results: Planned comparisons demonstrated that psychosocial stress increased voluntary intake of alcohol, but not placebo or non-alcoholic beverages. In linear regression analyses, individual differences in anxiety did not predict voluntary alcohol consumption.

Conclusion: A proximal relationship exists between acute stress and single-session alcohol intake in undergraduates, which may explain the relationship between life stressors and increased drinking in this group. These findings demonstrate that stress management is an important target for reducing heavy episodic drinking on university campuses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / blood
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / psychology*
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Drinking Behavior*
  • Ethanol / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Individuality*
  • Male
  • Random Allocation
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Students / psychology*
  • Universities
  • Young Adult


  • Ethanol