Social contexts and the occurrence of episodic heavy drinking

Daniela Piontek, Ludwig Kraus, Fred Rist


Piontek, D., Kraus, L., & Rist F. (2013). Social contexts and the occurrence of episodic heavy drinking. International Journal of Alcohol and Drug Research, 2(2), 45-52. doi: 10.7895/ijadr.v2i2.106 (

Aims: This study aims to investigate the influence of social context variables on Episodic Heavy Drinking (EHD) among young adults. It will assess (a) whether EHD is predicted by characteristics of the specific drinking situation and drinking motives, and (b) whether the influence of drinking motives is moderated by public versus private drinking.

Design/Setting: Data were collected by means of an online survey conducted at the University of Münster (Germany) in December 2008.

Participants: The analytical sample consisted of 1,638 students.

Instruments: Information was collected on socio-demographics, habitual drinking behavior (beverage-specific quantity and frequency within the past 30 days, EHD, drunkenness), and drinking motives (Drinking Motive Questionnaire Revised, DMQ-R). Moreover, participants described a recent drinking situation (beverage-specific quantity, drunkenness) as well as the social context related to this situation (time, place, people present, other substances used). Multivariate regression analyses were used to test the influence of context variables and their interaction with drinking motives.

Findings: Drinking at a birthday or special party, during the weekend, or in a group where many people were drunk and playing drinking games increased the risk of EHD. Social and enhancement motives were associated with a higher risk for EHD, whereas conformity motives had a protective effect on heavy drinking. The effect of conformity motives was only present in public drinking situations.

Conclusions: Drinking in young people is a social phenomenon related to situational influences as well as individual characteristics. In addition, there seems to be situational moderation of the impact of specific drinking motives.


episodic heavy drinking; social context; university students; drinking motives

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