Journal Article

"Here’s to a night of drunken mistakes": Exploring experiences, regrets and optimism in young adult drinkers


Background: Studies exploring ‘anticipated regret’ concerning alcohol rarely consider the broader consequences of excessive drinking that might be regretted. Even if specific regrettable experiences are identified, interventions targeting them may not succeed because individuals are often optimistic about their risk susceptibility. Objectives: This study examined the consequences young adult drinkers reported, and the extent to which these were regretted. It then explored whether consequences and regrets differentiated between high risk, low risk and light drinkers, and whether regret was related to optimism. Methods: A cross-sectional on-line questionnaire measured drinking behaviour, consequences (frequency) and regrets (extent of likely regret) and risk perceptions (in general, and compared to others). Results: 273 participants were recruited (light (30%), low-risk (40%), and high-risk drinkers (30%). PCA detected three types of experience (common – e.g. vomiting; after-effects – e.g. being depressed; and ‘serious’ – e.g. drunk-driving), and three types of regret (‘serious’ – e.g. being aggressive; ‘common’ – e.g. wasting time; and ‘risky behaviour regrets’ – e.g. drugs). Multinomial regression found the high-risk drink group more likely to be male, had more experiences but regretted these experiences less than other groups. Regrets and optimism interacted, so that higher scores on common regrets were associated with greater optimism. The high-risk group was particularly characterised by optimism. Conclusions: High-risk drinkers may be unresponsive to anticipated regret manipulations as they do not regret post-alcohol ‘bad’ experiences, and some regrets were associated with comparative optimism. Interventions may need to focus less on regret and aim to change risk perceptions.

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Davies, Emma L.
Joshi, Mary S.

Oxford Brookes departments

Faculty of Health and Life Sciences\Department of Psychology, Health and Professional Development


Year of publication: 2018
Date of RADAR deposit: 2018-04-04

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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