Self-reported impulsivity, but not behavioral choice or response impulsivity, partially mediates the effect of stress on drinking behavior

Kristen R. Hamilton, Emily B. Ansell, Brady Reynolds, Marc N. Potenza, Rajita Sinha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Citations (SciVal)


Stress and impulsivity contribute to alcohol use, and stress may also act via impulsivity to increase drinking behavior. Impulsivity represents a multi-faceted construct and self-report and behavioral assessments may effectively capture distinct clinically relevant factors. The present research investigated whether aspects of impulsivity mediate the effect of stress on alcohol use. A community-based sample of 192 men and women was assessed on measures of cumulative stress, alcohol use, self-reported impulsivity, and behavioral choice and response impulsivity. Data were analyzed using regression and bootstrapping techniques to estimate indirect effects of stress on drinking via impulsivity. Cumulative adversity exhibited both direct effects and indirect effects (via self-reported impulsivity) on drinking behavior. Additional models examining specific types of stress indicated direct and indirect effects of trauma and recent life events, and indirect effects of major life events and chronic stressors on drinking behavior. Overall, cumulative stress was associated with increased drinking behavior, and this effect was partially mediated by self-reported impulsivity. Self-reported impulsivity also mediated the effects of different types of stress on drinking behavior. These findings highlight the value of mediation models to examine the pathways through which different types of stress increase drinking behavior. Treatment and prevention strategies should focus on enhancing stress management and self-control.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-15
Number of pages13
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Declaration of interest: This work was supported, in part, by the NIH (T32 DA007238-21, K08 DA029641, RL1-AA017539, P20-DA027844, UL1-DE019586, and PL1-DA024859) and the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research Common Fund. The contents of the manuscript are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of any of the funding agencies. The authors report that they have no financial conflicts of interest with respect to the content of this manuscript. Dr Sinha is on the Scientific Advisory Board for Embera Neurotherapeutics and is also a consultant for Glaxo-Smith Kline Pharmaceuticals. Dr Potenza has received financial support or compensation for the following: Dr Potenza has consulted for and advised Boehringer Ingelheim; has consulted for and has financial interests in Somaxon; has received research support from the National Institutes of Health, Veteran’s Administration, Mohegan Sun Casino, the National Center for Responsible Gaming and its affiliated Institute for Research on Gambling Disorders, and Forest Laboratories, Ortho-McNeil, Oy-Control/Biotie, Psyadon and Glaxo-SmithKline pharmaceuticals; has participated in surveys, mailings, or telephone consultations related to drug addiction, impulse control disorders, or other health topics; has consulted for law offices and the federal public defender’s office in issues related to impulse control disorders; provides clinical care in the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Problem Gambling Services Program; has performed grant reviews for the National Institutes of Health and other agencies; has guest-edited journal sections; has given academic lectures in grand rounds, CME events, and other clinical or scientific venues; and has generated books or book chapters for publishers of mental health texts.


  • Alcohol use
  • Choice impulsivity
  • Mediation
  • Response impulsivity
  • Self-reported impulsivity
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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