Indirect Effects of Loneliness on Substance Use through Stress

Chris G Segrin, Melissa McNelis, Corey A. Pavlich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Loneliness is associated with a range of physical health problems, and health behaviors (e.g., alcohol use) have been specified as one factor that explains the compromised health of lonely people. Accordingly, in this investigation, we sought to test direct and indirect (through stress) effects of loneliness on substance use (i.e., alcohol consumption, drinking problems, and prescription medication use) over the course of 1 year in a 2-wave longitudinal study. These effects were tested in a sample of 210 young adults who completed self-report measures of loneliness and substance use at time 1 and then completed measures of stress and substance use at time 2. The results showed that loneliness did not have prospective direct effects on substance use, but that it did have significant indirect effects, through increased stress, on all indicators of substance use. These findings highlight the important role of stress in potentially compromising the health of lonely people by increasing their propensity to engage in health risk behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)513-518
Number of pages6
JournalHealth Communication
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 4 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication


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