From the Journals

Alcohol dependence in teens tied to subsequent depression



Alcohol dependence, but not consumption, at age 18 years increases the risk for depression at age 24 years.


  • The study included 3,902 mostly White adolescents, about 58% female, born in England from April 1991 to December 1992, who were part of the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) that examined genetic and environmental determinants of health and development.
  • Participants completed the self-report Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) between the ages of 16 and 23 years, a period when average alcohol use increases rapidly.
  • The primary outcome was probability for depression at age 24 years, using the Clinical Interview Schedule Revised (CIS-R), a self-administered computerized clinical assessment of common mental disorder symptoms during the past week.
  • Researchers assessed frequency and quantity of alcohol consumption as well as alcohol dependence.
  • Confounders included sex, housing type, maternal education and depressive symptoms, parents’ alcohol use, conduct problems at age 4 years, being bullied, and smoking status.


  • After adjustments, alcohol dependence at age 18 years was associated with depression at age 24 years (unstandardized probit coefficient 0.13; 95% confidence interval, 0.02-0.25; P = .019)
  • The relationship appeared to persist for alcohol dependence at each age of the growth curve (17-22 years).
  • There was no evidence that frequency or quantity of alcohol consumption at age 18 was significantly associated with depression at age 24, suggesting these factors may not increase the risk for later depression unless there are also features of dependency.


“Our findings suggest that preventing alcohol dependence during adolescence, or treating it early, could reduce the risk of depression,” which could have important public health implications, the researchers write.


The study was carried out by researchers at the University of Bristol; University College London; Critical Thinking Unit, Public Health Directorate, NHS; University of Nottingham, all in the United Kingdom. It was published online in Lancet Psychiatry


There was substantial attrition in the ALSPAC cohort from birth to age 24 years. The sample was recruited from one U.K. region and most participants were White. Measures of alcohol consumption and dependence excluded some features of abuse. And as this is an observational study, the possibility of residual confounding can’t be excluded.


The investigators report no relevant disclosures. The study received support from the UK Medical Research Council and Alcohol Research UK.

A version of this article first appeared on

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