Do happy people drink less alcohol? The Impact of Psychological Wellbeing on Alcohol Use: Examining the role of Religiousness.
Alcohol use in the student population is a well-documented phenomenon (e.g. Turrisi, Mallett, Mastroleo, & Larimer, 2006). A plethora of psychological research investigating various factors may predict the extent of an individual’s drinking behaviour. One such factor is religiousness, which includes the belief in and practice of any established religion. The research in this field also takes into account “other” spiritual orientations such as agnosticism and atheism. Studies have consistently found that low religiousness in students is associated with heavier alcohol use (Wells, 2010; Koenig, 2001; Dulin, Hill & Ellingson 2006; Nelms, Hutchins, Hutchins & Pursley, 2007). Expanding upon these findings, researchers have suggested that such factor as psychological wellbeing is important in understanding these differences in levels of alcohol use. Empirical evidence has found that heavier drinking in students can be used as a method of coping with negative emotions (Cooper, Russell, Skinner, Frone, & Mudar, 1992; Farber, Khavari, & Douglass, 1980); whilst Aldridge-Gerry, Roesch, Villodas, McCabe, Leung and Costa (2011) and Menagi (2008) argue that students who instead turn to their religion in times of stress use alcohol less. The ability to cope with negative emotions such as stress has a positive impact on mental health and wellbeing (WHO, 2001). Negative emotions are a normal part of people’s lives, but when they are very long lasting or extreme they can significantly impair psychological wellbeing. Although psychological wellbeing is mainly associated with positive emotions such joy, satisfaction, calmness, happiness etc., it does not require people to experience positive emotions all the time (reference).
Positive emotions that people experience can be the consequence of psychological wellbeing, therefore psychological wellbeing should not be understood or seen simply as “happiness”. Psychological wellbeing is an umbrella concept and happiness is rather its ‘conception’ . However, the term happiness can be understood differently to different people. Haybron (2008) proposed two philosophical terms for happiness such as ‘psychological’ and ‘prudential’ happiness . The distinction between those two aspects of happiness is important because only prudential happiness can be identified with wellbeing. Psychological happiness applies to the long-lasting state of “being happy,” and should not be seen as one of the positive emotions such as joy or pleasure. It does not matter what emotions a person experiences at the moment he or she is happy in general . However, psychological wellbeing is something more than psychological happiness as someone may want to be happy and healthy during their life. Therefore psychological happiness (i.e. being happy) can be not enough for an individual, and lack of health can...