Intolerance of uncertainty (IU) correlates with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and coping-oriented alcohol use, a known risk factor for, and consequence of, alcohol use disorder (AUD). However, no studies have explicitly evaluated associations among PTSD symptoms, IU, and alcohol-related outcomes in trauma-exposed populations. The current study evaluated the main and interactive effects of PTSD symptoms and IU in relation to alcohol use and problems (i.e., past-month alcohol consumption and binge frequency, negative alcohol-related consequences, coping motives), using secondary data from a laboratory investigation of trauma and alcohol cue reactivity. Exploratory analyses were also conducted with regards to primary subfacets of IU (i.e., inhibitory IU and prospective IU).
Participants were 81 college students (67% male) endorsing interpersonal trauma exposure (e.g., sexual/physical assault) and current alcohol use. Hierarchical linear regression models were conducted to evaluate aims, covarying for gender.
The IU main effect was significantly positively associated with alcohol coping motives (β = .42, p < .001) but no other alcohol use variables. IU did not interact with PTSD symptoms with respect to any alcohol use variables (p’s > .05). Exploratory prospective IU models revealed a significant main effect of PTSD symptoms in relation to alcohol-related consequences (β = .34, p = .009) and coping motives (β = .31, p = .001). Inhibitory IU models revealed a significant main effect of PTSD symptoms in relation to alcohol coping motives (β = .30, p = .006). Both prospective IU (β = .34, p = .001) and inhibitory IU (β = .40, p < .001) were significantly positively associated with alcohol coping motives.
Greater levels of IU relates to coping-oriented alcohol use in trauma-exposed young adult drinkers; however, IU may not inform levels of alcohol consumption or negative consequences from alcohol use in college populations.