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Less Binge Drinking Among Teens, Yet More Depression

Researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health said for the first time in the past 40 years, binge drinking and depressive symptoms among adolescents are no longer linked.

Investigators discovered binge drinking among U.S. adolescents declined significantly from 1991 to 2018. However, depressive symptoms among U.S. adolescents have sharply increased since 2012.

Their findings appear online in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

“Comorbidity of depression and drinking is among the bedrocks of psychiatric epidemiology findings – until now. Our results suggest that we need to be re-thinking the connections between mental health and alcohol among young people,” said Katherine M. Keyes, Ph.D., associate professor of epidemiology at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health.

Researchers examined data from the U.S. nationally representative “Monitoring the Future” surveys from 1991-2018 for 58,444 school-attending 12th-grade adolescents. Binge drinking was measured as having more than five drinks during the past two weeks. Depressive symptoms were measured based on agreeing or disagreeing with statements that life is meaningless or hopeless.

The relationship between depressive symptoms and binge drinking decreased by 16 percent from 1991 to 2018 and 24 percent among girls and 25 percent among boys. There had been no significant relation between depressive symptoms and binge drinking among boys since 2009; among girls, the relationship has been positive throughout most of the study period.

Investigators believe the results suggest a dynamic change and essential “decoupling” of the relationship between binge drinking and depressive symptoms.

“Although comorbidity between alcohol consumption and mental health is complex, the landscape of the adolescent experience is changing in ways that may affect both consumption and mental health,” observed Keyes.

“The declining correlation between binge drinking and mental health is occurring during a time of unprecedented decreases in alcohol consumption among U.S. adolescents and increases in mental health problems.┬áTherefore, the relationship between substance use and mental health may need to be reconceptualized for ongoing and future research.”

Source: Columbia University/EurekAlert!

Less Binge Drinking Among Teens, Yet More Depression

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2019). Less Binge Drinking Among Teens, Yet More Depression. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 24, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 16 Nov 2019 (Originally: 17 Nov 2019)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 16 Nov 2019
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