Emotion dysregulation in relation to cannabis use and mental health among young adults


Emotion dysregulation (ED) is a transdiagnostic variable that accounts for the onset and maintenance of mental health disorders. The interplay between ED, cannabis use and mental health has not been appraised in the young adult population and whether there are sex-dependent effects has yet to be examined. This study looked at whether ED mediates the association between past-month cannabis use and mental health, while considering sex as a moderator.


2,762 (64.2% women) undergraduate Spanish students completed an online battery. Among others, they fulfilled the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale-21 (DASS-21) and the Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale (DERS-28). A two-way ANOVA assessed the effects of sex and past-month cannabis use on participants’ DASS-21 scores. A set of moderated mediations tested whether the indirect effect of past-month cannabis use on DASS-21 through DERS differed by sex.


Past-month cannabis female users showed higher levels of depression, anxiety and stress (M = 51.10, SD = 26.72) than did men [(M = 33.76, SD = 20.31); F(1, 2758) = 5.119, p =.024, η2p =.002]. In female young adults only, the effect of past-month cannabis use on mental health was mediated by ED (total score), non-acceptance of emotional responses, lack of emotional control, difficulties in engaging in goal-directed behavior, and lack of emotional clarity (all p’s < 0.005) CONCLUSIONS: Findings indicate the importance of considering ED in assessment and intervention practices. Interventions targeting ED may be particularly effective for female young adult cannabis users.


Cannabis; Emotion dysregulation; Mental health; Sex; Young adults.

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