Daphne Haggarty: Role of personality and drinking motives among athletes

In brief

Daphne Haggarty

During the three to five years that young adults typically spend at a post-secondary institution, binge drinking may lead to lifestyle habits that include a dependence on alcohol and health-related disorders. Little research, however, has been done to examine the role of personality and drinking motives within the athlete-alcohol relationship. Daphne Haggarty, however, is trying to change that.

EENet's Kim Karioja developed a Student Spotlight about Daphne's work. Student Spotlights are brief profiles of up-and-coming student researchers.

Read it below or download the PDF.

About Daphne

Daphne Haggarty completed an undergraduate degree in Psychology (HBSc.) at Lakehead University. During the past four years she has been a member of the university’s cross-country ski team and competed at the national level. Daphne is entering first year medical school at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, Lakehead University in September 2013.

What Is Daphne’s research about?

Athletes at the varsity and intramural levels have been shown to engage in binge drinking more often than non-athletes. Varsity refers to athletes who are recruited by the university to play at a high level against other universities. Intramural refers to recreational sports organized within the university or a club to encourage physical activity among students of all athletic abilities.

Binge drinking is defined as consuming 5 or more drinks on one occasion for men and 4 or more drinks for women. During the three to five years that young adults typically spend at a post-secondary institution, binge drinking may lead to lifestyle habits that include a dependence on alcohol and health-related disorders.

Little research, however, has been done to examine the role of personality and drinking motives within the athlete-alcohol relationship. Daphne used the 4 Factor Drinking Motives Model (Cooper, 1994): enhancement, social, conformity, and coping. These drinking motives are the best predictors of patterns of alcohol use (Conrod, 2000). Furthermore, four personality traits uniquely predict these drinking motives, providing a more complete picture of those at risk of binge drinking (Woicik, Stewart, Pihl, & Conrod, 2009).

The conclusions of Daphne’s research may guide school athletic administrators to develop strategies and interventions to enhance the health of student-athletes who may be at risk of engaging in binge drinking.

The research study recruited 137 undergraduate students from a Canadian university during the 2011-2012 academic year. Athletic participation was measured according to level of competition, type of sport, and general exercise activity level. Participants provided informed consent and completed a paper-and-pencil questionnaire that required an hour to finish. Students were compensated with either an academic credit (bonus point) or entry in a $100 draw.

What did Daphne find?

Daphne found that an athlete’s status as “varsity” or “intramural” predicted how frequently and heavily he or she drank. This is consistent with previous findings. However, contrary to previous literature, the type of sport (individual versus team) did not predict binge drinking. Most importantly, varsity athlete status predicted the frequency of binge drinking even after controlling for personality and reasons for drinking. Increased level of physical activity was not found to be related to increased binge drinking. A limitation of the study was low participation from varsity athletes.

The results of the study support the hypothesis that membership on varsity or intramural sports predisposes undergraduate athletes to binge drinking. The findings further indicate that this relationship persists beyond personality traits and drinking motives.

What’s next for Daphne?

Daphne’s research was accepted as a poster presentation at the June 2013 74th Annual Canadian Psychology Association conference in Quebec City. It is part of a collaborative study with Lakehead University, Mount Allison University, and the Substance Use Research Group (SURG), led by Dr. Christopher Mushquash. Results of the collaborative study will be available in 2014.

For more information about the study, please contact dghaggar [at] lakeheadu [dot] ca

Author: Kim Karioja