Mentalization impairment is associated with problematic alcohol use in a sample of young adults: A cross-sectional study

Claudio Imperatori, Ornella Corazza, Angelo Panno, Raffaella Rinaldi, Massimo Pasquini, Benedetto Farina, Massimo Biondi, Francesco Saverio Bersani

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Background: Alcohol is one of the most widely used drugs among adolescents and young people, and problematic alcohol use (PAU) is related to significant long-term biological, clinical, and psychosocial sequelae. Although preliminary reports have linked deficits in mentalization to increased vulnerability to addiction, no studies have specifically explored this phenomenon in relation to PAU. Methods: The association between mentalization impairment and PAU severity was investigated in a sample of 271 young adults (183 females, 65.9%; mean age: 23.20 ± 3.55 years; range: 18–34). Self-report measures investigating PAU and mentalization were administered to all participants. Results: Individuals with PAU reported a more frequent use of tobacco and illicit drugs in the last 12 months. PAU severity was negatively associated with mentalization capacity (rho = −0.21; p < 0.001), and also, when possible, confounding variables (i.e., gender, age, occupation, education, tobacco and illegal drugs use) were controlled for (rho = −0.17; p = 0.004). Conclusion: The present data showed that mentalization impairment is significantly associated with PAU among young adults, suggesting that it may have a role in the development and/or maintenance of alcohol use.
Original languageEnglish
Article number8664
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 22 Nov 2020


  • Addiction
  • Mentalization
  • Problematic alcohol use
  • Psychopathology


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