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A Comparison of Mental Health and Alcohol Use Between Traditional and Nontraditional Students

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Objective: To describe differences in life stress, anxiety, depression, and alcohol use between traditional and nontraditional college students. Participants: A targeted, stratified sample of college students (N = 1,187; M age = 23.96, SD = 7.30; female, 67.2%) completed study surveys in Spring 2011. Methods: Participants completed demographic information, life stress (Crisis in Family Systems), anxiety (Beck Anxiety Inventory), depression (Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale), and alcohol use (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test–Consumption) surveys during regularly scheduled class times. Results: Fifty-three percent (N = 630) of study participants were nontraditional students. Nontraditional students scored significantly higher than traditional students on life stress (t[1182] = −3.05, p < .01), anxiety (t[1175] = −2.20, p < .05), and depression (t[1174] = −2.22, p < .05). Nontraditional and traditional students did not differ on alcohol use. Conclusions: Interventions for nontraditional college students should address the mental health issues specific to this growing college subpopulation.
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Keywords: alcohol use; mental health; nontraditional college students

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 17, 2015

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