To Get High or to Get Out? Examining the Link between Addictive Behaviors and Escapism

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Abstract

Background: Escapism is a tendency to seek escape and distraction from reality or real-life problems. Past research regards escapism as a negative inducement that leads to adverse consequences when combined with substance use and other addictive activities. Existing knowledge on escapism’s connection to addiction is mostly based on studies with restricted populations and lacks a comprehensive view. Objectives: Using an extensive data set, our aim was to investigate whether escapism has a consistent association with different types of addictive behaviors. In this study, we examined (1) the extent to which escapism is related to alcohol consumption, smoking, drug use, and gambling and (2) whether escapism moderates the relation between problem drinking and life satisfaction. Methods: We used cross-sectional survey data from a nationally representative stratified random sample of 2,285 respondents aged 16 to 80 years (mean [M] 45.18; standard deviation [SD] 18.75; 51.25% males) living in Finland. Linear and logistic regression models estimated the association of escapism and alcohol consumption, smoking, drug use, and gambling. The second part of the analysis focused on life satisfaction. Results: Escapism was associated with alcohol consumption, smoking and drug use, but not with gambling. Escapism moderated the association between life satisfaction and problematic alcohol use, indicating that problem drinking with escapist motives predicts lower life satisfaction than problematic alcohol use alone. Conclusions/Importance: Escapism bears a consistent relation to substance use and is a particularly strong predictor of alcohol consumption. Escapism can serve as an initial motive, a reinforcer, and an amplifier of addictive behaviors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)202-211
JournalSubstance Use and Misuse
Volume57
Issue number2
Early online date23 Nov 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Keywords

  • addictive behavior
  • alcohol consumption
  • drinking
  • drug abuse
  • escapism
  • gambling
  • smoking

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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