Depression, Not Anxiety, Predicts Drinking in Adolescent Girls

Newswise — Internalizing problems such as depression and anxiety, along with alcohol misuse, increase during adolescence. All three predict poor social, academic, and emotional outcomes – particularly for girls. However, it is unclear what relationships exist among these problems. Do depression and anxiety lead to more alcohol use or does drinking lead to increased depression and anxiety? This study aimed to answer these questions, exploring reciprocal associations between depression and alcohol use and anxiety and alcohol use in girls from ages 13 to 17.

Researchers examined data taken from a population-based, multi-year study of female adolescents. For this analysis, 2,100 participants (57.1% black, 42.9% white) were assessed annually between ages 13-17 on their past year  depression, anxiety, and frequency and amount of alcohol use. Primary caregivers provided socioeconomic and neighborhood information. The researchers also collected data on race, onset of puberty, and conduct problems.

Higher levels of depression, but not anxiety, modestly predicted subsequent year alcohol use (one or more full drinks) across ages 13 to 17. Prior year alcohol use modestly predicted decreaseddepression at age 15 and 17. Anxiety and alcohol use were not associated with one another. This complex pattern of associations highlights thekey role of depression, relative to anxiety, in predicting female adolescents’ alcohol use. It also suggests the potential promise of depression prevention programs to reduce alcohol use in this group.