The primary aim of this study was to investigate the effect of different drinking patterns in
an Irish population on ability to cope with stress. Coping ability comprised approach coping responses, avoidance coping responses and trait anxiety levels. Coping responses were measured by the Coping Responses Inventory (CRI, Moos, 1993) and trait anxiety by the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI, Spielberger, 1983). A total of 128 participants took part in the study and were recruited from alcohol treatment centres and the general population. Drinking patterns were defined as light social drinkers (n=46), moderate / heavy drinkers (n=37) and individuals in recovery from alcohol dependency (n=45). Ages ranged from under 25 years of age to over 66 years of age. The ratio of males to females was 75 to 53. Multivariate analysis of variance found significant differences on coping ability between the three groups (Wilks' Lambda=0.75, F[6,246]=6.34, p<0.001). Univariate analyses of variance found significant differences on all three dependent variables - approach coping responses (F[2,125]=4.756, p<0.01), avoidance coping responses (F[2,125]=6.94, p<0.001), and trait anxiety levels F[2,125]=10.50, p<0.001) - but differences were not always in the direction hypothesised. Detailed analysis of each subscale on the CRI was also conducted. Further investigation of the recovery group was then carried out. A significant difference was found between those in recovery for less than 2 years and for longer than 2 years (t=3.76, df=43 , p<0.001, two-tailed). Multivariate analysis also found that choice of support group attended had a significant effect on coping ability (Wilks' Lambda=0.51, F[9,95]=3.42, p<0.001). Demographics of age, gender and marital status were also investigated. Findings were discussed in relation to implications for treatment planning, relapse prevention and the diagnosis of coexisting psychopathological symptoms. Methodological weaknesses were outlined and suggestions made for future
research on the relationship between substance abuse, coping skills and psychopathology.