Increasing evidence shows that higher emotional intelligence (EI) is generally associated with better mental and physical health. Low EI has also been hypothesized to correspond to greater substance use, but the issue is relatively under-investigated and the findings contradictory. The present study examines the relationship between EI and tipical predictors of frequency of alcohol consumption in university students. and investigate the role of EI in moderating the relationship between alcohol use and abuse - a widespread harmful behavior – and peer pressure, one of the strongest predictors of alcohol consumption. Methods: A questionnaire that included measures of individual variables – including EI (Emotional Intelligence Scale, EIS, Schutte et al., 1998), sensation seeking, coping styles, reported frequency and self-evaluation of alcohol use and abuse, emotions linked to alcohol consumption, and peer pressure – was administered to 198 (50% F) Italian university students. Results: Findings show that EI is neither related to alcohol use nor abuse; instead, it is related to active forms of coping, sensation seeking and positive emotions associated to alcohol consumption. The important role of peer pressure as a predictor of alcohol consumption is confirmed. However, EI moderates the relationship between peer pressure and alcohol use and abuse, with higher correlation in students with lower EI, confirming our main hypothesis. Conclusions: The findings have relevant implications for strategies directed at modifying emotion-regulation malfunctioning linked to alcohol abuse, and at improving the ability to resist pressure to conform to group norms in a population where being accepted and approved by the group is a crucial goal.
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