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How are Motives of Marijuana Use Associated with Symptoms of Depression, Symptoms of Anxiety, and Overall Psychological Distress in Young Adults of Los Angeles?

  • Author(s): Chokron Garneau, Helene;
  • Advisor(s): Gee, Gilbert Chee-Leung;
  • et al.

Mental health in young adulthood is the strongest predictor of mental health in adulthood. Mental health vulnerabilities present in young adulthood can be exacerbated by marijuana use, thus potentially hindering or delaying a successful transition to adulthood. Considering motives of marijuana use may provide insight into the associations between marijuana use and mental health in young adults.

The purpose of this dissertation was to: 1) understand the associations between motives of marijuana use and symptoms of depression, symptoms of anxiety, and overall psychological distress in young adults, and 2) examine whether these associations vary by gender. Data come from the Cannabis, Health and Young Adult Study (N=366), a longitudinal study of young adults, in Los Angeles, who use marijuana for medical and/or recreational purposes.

Exploratory and confirmatory analyses were performed to validate the factor structure of the instrument used to operationalize motives of marijuana use for the study. Multiple linear regressions were used to determine how motives of use are associated to mental health outcomes. Indirect effects between motives of use and mental health outcomes through frequency of use were also assessed. Finally, gender was tested as a moderator for both direct and indirect associations between motives of use and mental health outcomes.

Results validate the factor structure of the amended Comprehensive Marijuana Motive Questionnaire. Furthermore, results indicate that the coping motive of use is positively, significantly associated with mental health outcomes. The motives of conformity, pain, and attention are indirectly associated with symptoms of depression through frequency of use. Gender influences the association between the motive of social anxiety with symptoms of depression and overall psychological distress whereas women who endorse this motive of use report more symptoms of depression and overall psychological distress than men. None of the moderated mediation analyses were significant.

These results emphasize the importance of considering motive of use in the development of interventions targeting marijuana use and mental health in young adults. These findings also highlight the need for gender specific interventions as men and women engage in use differently, and with different consequences to their mental health.

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