Suicidal Ideation and Alcohol Outcomes in Emerging Adult Student Drinkers

This study is intended to advance our understanding of how suicidal ideation is functionally related to alcohol use and problems among emerging adult college students. Emerging adult college students have high rates of suicidal ideation and attempts and of alcohol use and problems. Among college students, individuals with suicidal ideation are more likely to binge drink and alcohol problems in this population are associated with increased rates of suicidal ideation and attempts. While the association between suicidality (ideation, attempts, and deaths) and alcohol is well documented in clinical and non-clinical populations, relatively few studies have applied relevant theory and research findings in both the areas of alcohol and suicidality to aid in the understanding of why they are linked.

This study takes a conceptually driven and innovative approach to understanding the interplay of suicidal ideation and alcohol by developing and testing a model based on theory and research in the areas of both suicidality and negative affect related-alcohol outcomes. The primary aim of this study is to examine a conceptual model, using structural equation modeling, of the associations among depression, severity of suicidal ideation, problem solving skills, the use of avoidant coping, drinking to cope with negative affect, impulsivity in response to negative affect (i.e., negative urgency), and alcohol use and problems. Participants will be 400 college men and women between the ages of 18 and 25, who are current drinkers and who have experienced (at a minimum) passive suicidal ideation. Unlike typical alcohol research, which has relied on self-report measures of problem solving to explore models of alcohol use, this study will include the innovation of using a performance-based measure of participants' problem solving skills.

This study also will use a more recent and refined measure of impulsivity in examining the relationships among suicidal ideation, impulsivity, and alcohol outcomes. Specifically, the role of negative urgency will be examined, as it is a facet of impulsivity found to be particularly associated with alcohol problems, it has been theorized to underlie the relationship between negative affect and alcohol problems, and our preliminary work suggests that it is particularly associated with suicidal ideation and alcohol problems among emerging adult college drinkers.

This exploratory cross-sectional study will provide meaningful preliminarily data for longitudinal studies of the relationships among suicidality, coping skills, drinking to cope, negative urgency, and alcohol outcomes. The results of this study have the potential to contribute crucial knowledge by uncovering clinically malleable targets for secondary prevention and treatment efforts aimed at reducing suicidality and alcohol problems among emerging adults.

PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE: The results of this study have the potential to contribute knowledge crucial to the development of effective prevention and treatment efforts aimed at reducing suicidality (ideation, attempts, and deaths) and alcohol problems among emerging adult (18- to 25-year-old) college students, a population with high rates of both problems.

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