Drinking alone as young adults associated with alcoholism in the mid-30s

Add that finding to the documented increase in alcohol drinking among Americans during the pandemic, and you have a worrisome situation, said lead study author Cassie Cresswell, associate professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

“Several studies have now shown that solitary drinking has increased as a result of the epidemic,” Cresswell said, likely due to the closing of bars and social venues during stay-at-home measures.

“Studies have also shown that the association between solitary drinking and alcohol problems is stronger for young women than for young men,” she said. “This is particularly concerning given recent increases in solitary drinking among American teenage girls.”

“The main reason young people drink alone is to deal with negative emotions, and developing such a relationship with alcohol during an epidemic may put solitary drinkers on a path to increased alcohol use, which can lead to more alcohol-related problems,” Cresswell said. “And again this may be the case especially for young women.”

Study for 17 years

Criswell and a team at the University of Michigan analyzed data from the Watch the Future Study, an ongoing investigation of 4,500 teens who were asked about their drinking habits when they were seniors in high school. Additional data were collected when participants were 22 to 23 years old Old And again when they were thirty-five years old.

About 25% of teens and 40% of young drinkers report drinking alone, according to the study published Monday in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

When compared to people who drink only socially, the study found that drinking alone as a high school student increased the risk of developing an alcohol use disorder by 35% by age 35. Alcohol use disorder, also called alcoholism, is defined as the inability to stop drinking Even when it causes physical or moral harm to the drinker or to others.

Criswell said the link was especially strong for teenage girls.

“The odds of developing alcohol use disorder symptoms at age 35 were 86% higher for teenage girls (high school seniors) who drank alone. In contrast, the odds of developing alcohol use disorder symptoms at age 35 were only 8% higher for male teens who drank,” she said. .

Drinking alone during a person’s early 20s increased their risk of alcohol use disorder by 60% compared to social drinkers, but this time there was no difference between men and women. Even after looking at other common risk factors, Criswell said, the findings held up.

“Solitary drinking at younger ages presents a unique risk for future alcohol problems as well as early excessive drinking and frequent alcohol use, which are (both) known risk factors,” she said.

“This suggests that we should not only ask young people how much they drink and how often they drink in order to identify young people at risk, but also whether they drink alone or not,” Cresswell said. . “Drinking alone tells us quite a bit about the future risks of developing alcohol problems.”

pandemic drinking

Previous research has shown a 41% increase in heavy drinking days among women since the onset of the epidemic. Part of the reason may be the “blurring” of the boundaries between home and work for many women.
“Studies have shown that the complexities of balancing home, work and caregiving responsibilities during the pandemic have fallen disproportionately on women,” Dr. Lina Mittal told CNN in a previous interview. Mittal is the chief of women’s mental health in the division of psychiatry at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. It was not linked to a new study.

Experts say the high level of drinking in women is worrisome because of the well-known link between alcohol and the risk of breast cancer in women.

“There’s really no safe level of alcohol consumption when it comes to breast cancer,” Dr. Sarah Wakeman, medical director of the Substance Use Disorders Initiative at Massachusetts General Hospital, told CNN earlier.

If you (or a loved one) seem to be struggling with alcohol, don’t hesitate to seek help, experts say. There are many different support groups that can help, such as 12-step programs and individual therapy.

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