Mediated and moderated associations between cumulative lifetime stressor exposure, emotional dysregulation, impulsivity, and lifetime alcohol use: a cross-sectional scoping study of UK drinkers

James M. Clay, Kiera A. Baker, Roxana D. Mezabrovschi, Giacomo Berti, Grant S. Shields, George M. Slavich, Lorenzo D. Stafford, Matthew O. Parker

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Stress, trait impulsivity, and emotional dysregulation are independent predictors of alcohol use and misuse, but little is known about the potential mechanisms that link these risk factors together. To address this issue, we carried out an exploratory cross-sectional study, on UK-based participants. Our preregistered, hypothesised theoretical framework was that emotional dysregulation mediates the association between cumulative lifetime stressor exposure and lifetime alcohol use. We also hypothesised that heightened impulsivity would strengthen these relations. As hypothesised, emotional dysregulation fully mediated the relation between cumulative lifetime stressor exposure and lifetime alcohol use. Several facets of impulsivity moderated these associations. For example, as levels of negative urgency increased, the associations between cumulative lifetime stressor exposure and emotional dysregulation, emotional dysregulation and lifetime alcohol use, and lifetime stress exposure and lifetime alcohol use, via emotional dysregulation, strengthened. These preliminary findings propose a theoretically framed model which integrates several prominent risk-factors for alcohol misuse, extending prior research and generating interesting and novel lines of enquiry for longitudinal and cross-cultural analyses. The findings also highlight the potential clinical utility of screening for lifetime stress exposure while tailoring personalised treatment interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)140-149
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
Early online date21 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2023


  • addiction
  • alcohol
  • impulsivity
  • risk-taking
  • stress
  • UKRI
  • ERSC
  • ES/P000673/1

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