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