Solitary drinking in youth potentially predicts alcohol use disorder later in life

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Solitary drinking during adolescence increases the risk for an alcohol use disorder later in life, researchers reported in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

“Most young people who drink do it with others in social settings, but a substantial minority of young people are drinking alone. Solitary drinking is a unique and robust risk factor for future alcohol use disorder,” Kasey G. Creswell, PhDassistant professor in the department of psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, said in a release accompanying the study.

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Creswell and colleagues conducted a longitudinal study to examine whether solitary drinking among those aged 12 to 18 years would predict alcohol use disorders in young adulthood.

They recruited 466 teens who used alcohol from clinical programs and 243 teens who used alcohol from the community, for a total of 709 participants (378 male; mean age, 16.3 years). Participants were given follow-up assessments at 1 year, 3 years, 5 years and at age 25 years. A total of 528 (75%) participants aged 25 years completed the assessment.

Of the 709 participants, 275 (38.8%) reported adolescent solitary drinking, and 434 (61.2%) reported never having a drink alone. About 24% to 28% of adolescents endorsed solitary drinking at any age and showed no significant increase or decrease over time.

In participants from the clinical setting, 88.4% reported solitary drinking, compared with 51.4% of participants from the community setting. Overall, solitary drinkers were more likely to be male, had heavier alcohol or more frequent alcohol use, met the criteria for alcohol use disorders and were younger the first time they experienced intoxication.

“Even after we account for well-known risk factors, such as binge drinking, frequency of alcohol use, socioeconomic status and gender, we see a strong signal that drinking alone as a young person predicts alcohol problems in adulthood,” Creswell said in the release .

“With concurrent increases in pandemic-related depression and anxiety, we may very well see an increase in alcohol problems among the nation’s youth,” Creswell added.


EurekAlert! Drinking alone foreshadows future alcohol problems. Published: July 11, 2022. Accessed: July 12, 2022.

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