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Do preparatory behaviours predict alcohol consumption among UK university students?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Richard Cooke, Olivia Bailey, Janine Jennings, Chun Yuen, Benjamin Gardner

Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Health Psychology
Accepted/In press13 Oct 2020

King's Authors


Objective: This study explored whether the frequency and habitual nature of engagement in three behaviours that may serve as preparation for alcohol consumption on a night out with friends – i.e., contacting friends to arrange a night out, buying alcohol, drinking alone at home before going out – predicted consumption on such nights.

Design: Prospective correlational design.

Methods: 120 UK university students (68 female, 50 male, 2 non-binary, mean age = 20.78y, SD = 1.52) completed a survey comprising intentions, habits, and frequency and habit for the three preparatory behaviours. One week later, a second survey measured the number of nights out with friends on which alcohol was drunk (i.e., drinking frequency) and the number on which four or more alcoholic drinks were consumed (i.e, excessive drinking). Regression models were run to predict drinking frequency and excessive drinking.

Results: Drinking frequency was predicted only by frequency of contacting friends (B = 0.28, SE = 0.12, p = .02), and habitually drinking alone before going out (B = 0.20, SE = 0.09, p = .03). Excessive drinking was only predicted by alcohol consumption habit (B = 0.67, SE = 0.23, p = .003).

Conclusions: Preceding actions may influence the frequency of alcohol consumption on nights out, independently of intentions and habits relating to alcohol consumption. While interventions to reduce consumption quantity in a single session might focus on disrupting the habits that sustain drinking episodes, efforts to reduce alcohol consumption frequency on nights out might focus on disrupting behaviours that precede alcohol consumption.

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