Examining the prospective associations between mindfulness facets and substance use in emerging adulthood
Emerging adulthood (i.e., ages 18-25) is a developmental phase associated with frequent alcohol and cannabis use, placing this population at risk for substance use problems. Depression and anxiety (i.e., emotional psychopathology) are also prevalent during this phase and some emerging adults use substances to cope with these negative emotions. Mindfulness – a multifaceted construct – involves being present in a nonjudgmental and nonreactive way. Certain mindfulness facets are particularly relevant in buffering against substance use. A recent longitudinal study (Single et al., 2019) showed that specific mindfulness facets (i.e., acting with awareness, nonjudging of inner experience, and nonreactivity to inner experience) predicted decreased alcohol and drug use in undergraduates. These pathways were explained by low levels of emotional psychopathology. This study expanded this recent work by using a three time-point longitudinal design and including measures of both alcohol and cannabis use and related problems. Using MTurk, participants (N = 299; 58% female; Mage = 23.69, SDage = 1.77) completed online measures of trait mindfulness, depression, anxiety, alcohol and cannabis use, and related problems at three time-points, each two weeks apart. Structural Equation Modelling (SEM) was used to test the hypotheses. Results revealed that the acting with awareness and nonjudging of inner experience facets predicted fewer alcohol problems, but not alcohol use, and this effect was mediated by low levels of emotional psychopathology. These results were not supported for cannabis use and problems. This study demonstrates that there may be differences in the pathways from trait mindfulness to alcohol and cannabis use during emerging adulthood.