Differential associations among alcohol use, depression and perceived life meaning in male and female college students


Excessive alcohol consumption is a chronic issue on college campuses nationwide and presents a significant public health concern. Compared with non-college peers, college students consume alcohol at substantially higher rates and encounter more negative consequences resulting from drinking. This study aimed to examine the role of depression and perceived life meaning in college student drinking, with a focus on potential sex differences. Participants recruited from a large southern university in the United States (mean age = 19.14, SD age = 2.05; 75.7% female; 75.7% Caucasian, 17.2% African American) completed surveys assessing perceived meaning, depression and alcohol use. Results indicated a significant inverse relationship between perceived meaning and alcohol use, while no significant association was found between depression and alcohol use. Although the regression model including perceived meaning and depression was significant in the prediction of alcohol use, it was meaning that accounted for significant variance in alcohol use. When the sample was split by sex, there was an interaction between meaning and depression in predicting male alcohol use. This study expands upon previous research pertaining to college student alcohol use and reveals potentially clinically relevant differences in patterns of association between men and women. Limitations, clinical implications and directions for research are discussed.



Document Type





alcohol, drinking (drinkers), motivation

Publication Date


Journal Title

Journal of Substance use