Child and Adolescent Anxiety May Be Associated With Later Alcohol Use

Child and adolescent anxiety is positively associated with later alcohol use and disorders, according to research published in Addiction.

The systematic review of 51 prospective cohort studies from 11 countries included publications from PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science, and PsycINFO that were published in English, involved human participants, investigated anxiety exposure in childhood or adolescence and alcohol outcome, and included at least 6 months of follow- up. Study sample sizes ranged greatly, from 110 to 11,157 participants, exposure ages ranged from 3 to 24 years, and alcohol outcomes ranged from ages 11 to 42 years.

Across the 51 studies, 97 associations were categorized by anxiety exposure, including generalized anxiety disorder, internalizing disorders, miscellaneous anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, separation anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and specific phobias. Alcohol use outcome was categorized by drinking frequency and quantity, binge drinking, and alcohol use disorders.

Evidence for an association between anxiety and later alcohol use disorders was found in the narrative synthesis. However, the association between anxiety and later drinking frequency and quantity as well as binge drinking were inconsistent. The discrepancies were not explained by type and developmental period of anxiety, follow-up duration, sample size, or cofounders.

While the data suggests an association between child and adolescent anxiety and later alcohol use disorders, researchers state that the evidence is “far from conclusive of a positive association between anxiety during childhood and adolescence and subsequent alcohol use disorder.” Further research will be necessary to investigate this potential association.


Dyer ML, Easey KE, Heron J, Hickman M, Munafò MR. Associations of child and adolescent anxiety with later alcohol use and disorders: a systematic review and meta‐analysis of prospective cohort studies [published online March 19, 2019]. Addiction. doi:10.1111/add.14575