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Specific Facets of Trait Mindfulness Reduce Risk for Alcohol and Drug Use Among First-Year Undergraduate Students

  • Alanna Single
  • Elena Bilevicius
  • Edward A. Johnson
  • Matthew T. Keough



The first year of university is associated with the heaviest alcohol and drug use for young adults. Trait mindfulness decreases risk for harmful substance use broadly, but less is known about its protective role against alcohol and drug use during the first year of university. We hypothesized that specific facets of trait mindfulness (acting with awareness, nonjudging of inner experience, and nonreactivity to inner experience) would predict reduced alcohol and drug use among first-year university students. Given that the same facets of trait mindfulness protect against anxiety and depression (i.e., emotional psychopathology), we expected low levels of emotional psychopathology to mediate these effects.


First-year undergraduates (N = 308) completed online self-reports in a longitudinal study. Facets of trait mindfulness were assessed at the beginning of the semester (Time 1). Emotional psychopathology, alcohol use, and drug use were assessed 4 months later (Time 2).


Results revealed that the acting with awareness, nonjudging of inner experience, and nonreactivity to inner experience facets predicted decreased alcohol and drug use at Time 2 (controlling for Time 1 outcomes). These effects were mediated by low levels of emotional psychopathology.


Our study demonstrates that first-year students who are high in specific facets of trait mindfulness are less likely to experience elevated emotional psychopathology, and in turn, are less likely to engage in harmful alcohol and drug use.


Mindfulness Alcohol use Drug use Young adults Emotional psychopathology Longitudinal 


Author Contributions

All authors contributed meaningfully to the conceptual model presented in the manuscript. AS designed the online studies, collected, cleaned, and organized data, wrote the introduction and discussion of the manuscript, and edited the document. EB cleaned and organized data, wrote the method section of the manuscript, contributed to the discussion, and edited the document. EAJ edited the document. MTK designed the study, developed the study idea, oversaw data collection, analyzed data, wrote the “Results” section of the manuscript, created tables and figures, and edited the document. The final manuscript reflects the combined substantial effort of all co-authors and together, we declare that we approve of this submission.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethics Statement

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The study was approved by the University of Manitoba Psychology/Sociology Research Ethics Board (Winnipeg, Canada).

Informed Consent Statement

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alanna Single
    • 1
  • Elena Bilevicius
    • 1
  • Edward A. Johnson
    • 1
  • Matthew T. Keough
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of ManitobaWinnipegCanada

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