Beer, wine, and social anxiety: Testing the "self-medication hypothesis" in the US and Cyprus
AuthorStrahan, E. Y.
SourceAddiction Research and Theory
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The social anxiety literature often cites the self-medication hypothesis (SMH) to explain why socially phobic clients often present with alcohol problems. Based on some earlier hints that social anxiety and drinking might be related in a curvilinear way, we sought to examine the SMH to assess for possible non-linear relationships, and to examine whether cultural differences affect these relationships. We surveyed self-reported social anxiety, alcohol expectancies, and alcohol use in college students from Cyprus (N=127) and the United States (US) (N=697). Participants were college students with a mean age of 19.8. Results revealed that positive and negative expectations about alcohol use were predictive of drinking for students from both cultures. Cypriot students endorsed fewer positive and more negative expectancies regarding alcohol use than their US counterparts, and engaged in less binge drinking. Social anxiety in men was related to drinking via a curvilinear relationship, in which drinking peaks at moderate levels of social anxiety. Among men, those with highest levels of social anxiety in both cultures drink the least. For women, there was no relationship between social anxiety level and drinking behavior. These findings demonstrate the complexity of the relationship between social anxiety and alcohol use. Far from being a linear relationship, these two variables are related in a curvilinear fashion, for men. This should inform future research on the SMH. © 2011 Informa UK Ltd All rights reserved.