Methods: Data for this cross-sectional study were collected through an online survey sent via email to all undergraduate students at a large university in the southeastern United States. CBD use frequency was measured with a 7-point Likert scale ranging from “I’ve tried it once” to “several times a week.” Anxiety was measured using both the General Anxiety Disorder-7 (7 items) for general anxiety and the Severity Measure for Social Anxiety Disorder - Adult (10 items) for social anxiety. Logistic regressions were used to test the impact of anxiety on whether or not someone had tried CBD, and OLS regressions were used to test whether anxiety is a predictor in how often someone uses CBD.
Results: Of the college students in our sample (N = 3472), 57% have used ingestible CBD products at least once, with 17.3% (n = 603) using them once a month or more. The most common uses for CBD products were to reduce anxiety (n = 952), to reduce stress (n = 858), and to improve sleep (n = 816). Other reasons included because their friends use them (n = 713), because they are easy to access (n = 487), and because they are legal (n = 530).
Both logistic regression models were significant, and showed that both general anxiety (OR = 1.037, 95% CI [1.024, 1.050]) and social anxiety (OR = 1.025, 95% CI [1.016,1.033]) were predictive of someone having used CBD at least once. Results from the OLS model showed that higher levels of overall anxiety were a significant predictor of more frequent CBD use. This was true independently for both general anxiety (β = .106, t = 5.927, p < .001) and social anxiety (β = .117, t = 6.602, p < .001).
Conclusions: To our knowledge, this is the largest study examining CBD use, intention of use, and its relationship to both general and social anxiety among college students to date. Findings from our study suggest that many college students are exploring CBD use for various purposes, particularly for relief from anxiety, stress, and to improve sleep. Social workers and university service providers may benefit from this work as it highlights the potential for college students to use CBD as a coping mechanism for anxiety. Additional areas for social work research include understanding how anxiety impacts emerging adults in university settings and coping mechanisms used as a result, which can inform future interventions to improve emerging adults’ health.