Context counts: Solitary drinking explains the association between depressive symptoms and alcohol-related problems in undergraduates

Introduction: According to theory, depressed individuals self-medicate their negative affect with alcohol. Due to isolation and interpersonal difficulties, undergraduates with elevated depressive symptoms may do much of their drinking alone and/or in intimate contexts (e.g., with family or romantic partners) rather than at normative social events (e.g., parties). Evidence suggests drinking in these contexts leads to heavy use and alcohol-related problems. Accordingly, context may be an explanatory mechanism linking depressive symptoms to problematic drinking. This pathway remains understudied in the literature. Our study aimed to examine solitary and intimate drinking as distinct mediators of the depressionproblematic drinking association.We hypothesized that depressive symptoms would be positively associated with solitary and intimate drinking which in turn would be associated with elevated alcohol use and related problems.