Alcohol and stress

Sense of coherence and drinking habits and attitudes related to alcohol under stress of the first year of study.

Every new situation in human life is associated with uncertainty. It calls for the need to meet the requirements it sets. Often, the consequence of the feeling of uncertainty is the tension resulting from the inability to find ready-made patterns of behavior in a given situation. The extent to which a person can adequately cope with the requirements of the situation will depend on the pathological, neutral or health-promoting effect.

A young person starting studies, especially a visitor, faces a completely new qualitative and quantitative situation. Deprived of existing sources of support, in the face of the inefficiency of old adaptation mechanisms, it is forced to meet it. Referring to Lazarus’ stress theory (after Koft, 1973), adapting to new realities can be directed towards emotions or solving a problem. The age of people starting their studies and the number and quality of life changes that this period brings with them allow us to suppose that active coping with the problem may be preceded by action aimed at discharging emotions. Alcohol may be a factor that facilitates and facilitates this discharge, especially since it is easily available and socially sanctioned. Positive expectations as to the effects of his actions in a tension situation can strengthen this way of coping.

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Therefore, research has emphasized attitudes and expectations related to alcohol. It was assumed that the lower the tolerance to stress, the worse the young person will cope with the requirements posed by the first year of study and will assign more importance to drinking alcohol in general and his own drinking habits. Such a person in stressful situations will expect alcohol to improve their mood, well-being and behavior (direct effects of drinking). He will also believe that drinking is a symbol of resistance, masculinity and belonging to a group (symbolic effects of drinking).

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The multi-axis model of the fight against Hobfoll (after Malon, Mioduchowska, 1997) allows to predict how a person will cope in difficult situations, being aware of functioning in a specific social environment. This prediction is based on three premises, i.e. many tensions are the result of interpersonal relationships, coping with stress requires cooperation with others, and every social effort made by man has its potential consequences. Based on this theory, it can be concluded that young people, for whom alcohol is one of the ways to cope, will reveal more anti-social behavior (e.g. avoiding danger or cautious behavior) compared to a non-drinking group with more prosocial behavior in their repertoire. (e.g. seeking social support).

Another factor that needs to be considered when analyzing the causes of drinking as a form of dealing with situational requirements is the assessment of one’s own losses and profits. The balance of own resources results, among others, from the coping mechanisms used and the attitude towards alcohol. According to the theory of resource conservation of Hobfoll (1998), people more sensitive to loads will be more susceptible to loss of resources and will have less of them. The consequence of this will be an escalation of the spiral of losses, which may have a secondary impact on ways of coping with stress and attitudes towards alcohol (people less resistant to stress who cope with drinking alcohol will be more susceptible to loss and will adversely assess their own balance of resources).

The clamp that links the above elements (attitudes, coping methods and balance), and at the same time the prism through which we look at the world is a sense of coherence (Antonovsky, 1995). Treating the world as predictable, understandable and meaningful, we determine the scope and ways of acting in it. The same also applies to self-perception. It performs a particularly important function in difficult situations, where information deficiency and chaos, tension and uncertainty as to the effects of one’s own actions, effectively counteract or at least impede the adaptation to them. It also influences alcohol-related expectations and attitudes and the way of balancing one’s own life experiences – addiction recovery in South Africa

Information on the impact of the sense of coherence on coping with stress of the first year of study, perception of own resources and immune deficits and attitudes related to alcohol are important in that they can be helpful in constructing integration classes for people starting studies. This information may also be useful to the lecturers, as improper adaptation to the requirements and burdens associated with it, significantly contribute to school failures in the first year of study.

To sum up, there are grounds to suppose that depending on the level of sense of coherence attitudes, beliefs and expectations related to alcohol, as well as the balance of resources and ways of coping will change. This relationship is important especially for young people, whose view of the world is subject to constant development and transformation. It can be illustrated by the diagram below.

addiction photoOwn research largely confirmed the initial assumptions. The study involved 65 people (50 girls and 15 boys), first-year students, aged 19-21, residents of student housing in Krakow. It was carried out (which may also be the cause of disproportion of groups) just before the summer session,

according to the assumption that it will be a stress factor that will activate adaptation mechanisms developed throughout the year. The following questionnaires were used as research tools: Antonovsky’s Life Orientation Questionnaire (SOC 29), Stress Management Strategy Questionnaire (SACS g) and Hobfoll’s General Resource Assessment Questionnaire, and the Lammers and Wiers Alcohol Drinking habits and Expectations Questionnaire. The subjects were divided and assigned (based on the results of the questionnaires) to two groups: people with low and high sense of coherence.

In general, it can be said that there are differences between the above groups in terms of expectations about alcohol, coping methods and balance of resources. It was found that people with a strong sense of coherence do not expect that by drinking with others they strengthen their belonging to the group, or facilitate social contacts in this way. They also do not expect that drinking will be better and higher rated by others, they will become more attractive. They do not present beliefs that alcohol gives a sense of masculinity and strength. In a stressful situation, they are able to realistically assess the threat and from the wide range of remedies available to them choose those that are most appropriate for the situation. Their action is therefore flexible, which is why they treat stressors in the category of challenges. Balancing life experiences is focused on emphasizing profits, not losses. This is because such people perceive the world as coherent and thus accumulate generalized immune resources. They are launched in an emergency and used to find the most appropriate solution to the problem.

The situation is different with people who perceive the environment and events occurring in it as incoherent, senseless and incomprehensible (weak sense of coherence). Alcohol can be a means for them that facilitates social contacts or even enables them. The relaxing effect of alcohol is particularly important in this respect. In new situations that require adaptation, making friends can be particularly difficult for such people. Therefore, they probably enjoy the integrative social functions of alcohol. They are also characterized by their belief and expectation that alcohol has a positive effect on their self-esteem and social assessment. In stressful situations they cope more often avoiding danger, which may be caused by a selective view of reality (negativity). Such people focus primarily on the emotional aspects of threatening factors, and their main activity is to eliminate anxiety and tension. This makes their activity not flexible. For this reason, reality is assessed primarily in terms of losses: Recovery Direct in South Africa

Another type of analysis concerned attitudes towards alcohol, coping and the balance of resources in terms of drinking alcohol and abstinence. On its basis, it can be assumed that abstainers (almost half of the respondents said that they do not drink alcohol at all or consume it occasionally) are characterized by beliefs that drinking alcohol is a sign of weakness, lack of strong will and independence, and causes irritability, fatigue and depressed mood . This may be dictated by the fact that in their repertoire of coping methods they have many other alternative methods of dealing with difficult situations. Alcohol is even an obstacle for them in social contacts. In difficult situations, abstainers can use the social environment in a constructive way, by, among others, combating stress and seeking social support. Their adaptive flexibility may result from the fact that they are aware of the possibility of stressful influence of the environment in which they operate. today