New research findings strengthen the evidence of a relationship between anxiety and subsequent alcohol consumption among adolescents.
Researchers at the University of Bristol have found evidence of an association between generalized anxiety disorder at age 18 and harmful alcohol consumption three years later.
Teen anxiety linked to harmful alcohol consumption
The study, published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence reinforces the evidence of a relationship between anxiety and subsequent alcohol consumption – teenage anxiety, as researchers took into account other factors, such as adolescent smoking and cannabis use, and anxiety of parents and alcohol consumption.
“Helping teenagers develop positive strategies to deal with anxiety, instead of drinking alcohol, can reduce the risk of drinking alcohol in the future. However, we cannot determine whether the relationship is causal because we use an observational study design, ”said Maddy Dyer.
Using data from questionnaires and clinical interviews of more than 2,000 participants, the researchers found that generalized anxiety disorder at age 18 was related to frequent alcohol use, frequent binge eating, dangerous consumption and harmful consumption at age 18.
Generalized anxiety disorder continued to be associated with harmful alcohol consumption at age 21.
Drinking to cope was also strongly associated with a more harmful drink, but did not seem to influence the associations between anxiety and alcohol consumption.
Harmful consumption was measured by a special test developed by the World Health Association.
On average, teenagers with anxiety drank at more harmful levels, regardless of whether they tended to drink alcohol for coping reasons or not.
“Our own research has shown that links between mental health problems, such as anxiety disorders and alcohol, are common and complex,” said Mark Leyshon, Senior Policy and Research Manager for Alcohol Change UK.
For example, anxiety can be both the result of stopping drinking and a risk factor for starting to drink too much, as this new study suggests.
“We need more research to help us better understand the connections between alcohol and mental health, as well as integrated, accessible and high-quality support for substance abuse and mental health problems,” Leyshon added.