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Childhood Anxiety Linked to Later Problems With Alcohol

Childhood Anxiety Linked to Later Problems With Alcohol

New research has found evidence that children and adolescents with higher levels of anxiety may be at a greater risk of developing alcohol problems.

Many studies have investigated the relationship between anxiety and alcohol use, but the evidence has been unclear, say researchers at the University of Bristol in the U.K.. Some studies found higher anxiety is linked to greater alcohol use, while others found anxiety is linked to lower alcohol use, or there was no association.

For their study, researchers at the university’s Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group carried out a systematic review of 51 prospective cohort studies from 11 countries: the United States, Germany, Finland, UK, Netherlands, Australia, Taiwan, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden, and Norway. The study sought to explore whether early anxiety is linked to later alcohol use and alcohol use disorders.

The researchers found that 46 studies included males and females, four had an all-male sample, and one had an all-female sample. The study sample sizes ranged from 110 to 11,157 participants. Anxiety exposure ages ranged from three to 24 years, and alcohol outcome ages ranged from 11 to 42 years.

The researchers found some evidence of a link between child and adolescent anxiety and later alcohol use disorders. However, associations of anxiety with later drinking frequency, quantity, and binge drinking were more inconsistent, they report.

“Our findings indicate that young people with higher anxiety may have a greater risk of developing alcohol problems,” said Maddy Dyer, a Ph.D. student in the School of Psychological Science’s Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group, who led the research. 

“Further research is needed to understand why there are differences in associations for alcohol consumption levels versus problematic use, and to establish which individuals with anxiety develop alcohol problems. This could lead to improvements in personalized interventions.”

The study is published in the journal Addiction.

Source: University of Bristol

Childhood Anxiety Linked to Later Problems With Alcohol

Janice Wood

Janice Wood is a long-time writer and editor who began working at a daily newspaper before graduating from college. She has worked at a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites, covering everything from aviation to finance to healthcare.

APA Reference
Wood, J. (2019). Childhood Anxiety Linked to Later Problems With Alcohol. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 25, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 23 Mar 2019 (Originally: 23 Mar 2019)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 23 Mar 2019
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