Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. Psychology Dept.


Allecia Reid


These three studies examined the relationship between drinker status, well-being, and social inclusion in a college population, specifically seeking to discover why and how drinkers are happier than abstainers. In the first study, an existing longitudinal data set was used to compare the happiness of drinkers and non-drinkers, as well as ascertain if year in school was a factor. Drinkers were significantly happier than non-drinkers upon completion of their first semester freshman year, but this difference was not significant when the students were assessed one year later. Study 2 extended Study 1 by examining social factors as potential mediators of the relationship between drinker status and well-being. Participants completed measures that provided information about their drinking patterns and their overall happiness, as well as a multidimensional scale of social inclusion on campus. Results confirmed that non-drinkers have lower life satisfaction scores and higher levels of emotional distress than underclassman drinkers; importantly, this relationship was fully mediated by levels of perceived social inclusion. In the third part of the study, an intervention was implemented for freshman and sophomore non-drinkers, to examine if a brief intervention could increase perceived social inclusion and well-being. While this intervention did not produce significant results, possible limitations and future directions of this research are discussed, with emphasis on the importance of additional exploration of possible socially protective factors for non-drinkers. The findings in these studies suggest that college non-drinkers are at risk for negative well-being outcomes, and more research needs to be conducted to better understand their experience and address their unique challenges to “fitting in.”


college drinking, abstainers, social inclusion, well-being, social support, first-year experience