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Public self-consciousness, pre-loading and drinking harms among university students

Davies, Emma L and Paltoglou, Aspasia (2019) Public self-consciousness, pre-loading and drinking harms among university students. Substance Use and Misuse, 54 (5). pp. 747-757. ISSN 1082-6084


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Background: Social anxiety and self-consciousness are associated with alcohol-related problems in students. The practice of pre-loading is one avenue for exploration regarding this relationship. Individuals may pre-load to reduce social anxiety and feel more confident when socialising, which could lead to the increased harms experienced. The current study aimed to explore reasons for pre-loading, and whether public and private self-consciousness and social anxiety were related to pre-loading, increased drinking and harms. Method: Prospective study with four-week follow up of 325 UK students aged 18-30 years old. Participants completed measures of private and public self-consciousness, social anxiety, alcohol consumption, alcohol-related harms and pre-loading. Results: Financial motives and mood-related reasons, such as gaining confidence were reported as reasons for pre-loading. Pre-loading predicted hazardous alcohol consumption, but social anxiety, and public and private self-consciousness did not. However, pre-loading, public self-consciousness and social anxiety predicted alcohol-related harms. Furthermore, public self-consciousness mediated the relationship between pre-loading and harms in a positive direction and this appeared to be more relevant in high risk (AUDIT 8+) than low risk drinkers. Conclusion: Students who scored higher in public self-consciousness appeared to be at greater risk of harms from pre-loading. Further research should examine this relationship further with particular attention to high risk drinkers, and explore which aspects of a night out are related to heightened self-consciousness. Interventions could incorporate measures to reduce public self-consciousness, in order to reduce the negative impacts of pre-loading.

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