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- Young people who drank alone at age 18 were 35 percent more likely to report symptoms of alcohol use disorder.
- People who reported drinking by themselves in their early 20s were 60 percent more likely to report these symptoms.
- The team found that young women who drink alone are especially vulnerable to alcohol use disorder later in adulthood.
People who drink alone early in life run the risk of developing alcohol use disorder later in adulthood, a new study suggests.
Young people who drank alone at age 18 were 35 percent more likely to report symptoms of alcohol use disorder, while people who reported drinking by themselves in their early twenties were 60 percent more likely to report these symptoms.
Close to 25 percent of adolescents aged 18 and 40 percent of 20s adults aged 23-24 reported drinking alone.
Researchers analyzed data from approximately 4,500 18-year-olds who participated in the Monitoring the Future study. Participants were initially asked about their alcohol use and were then followed over a 17-year period to offer information about their drinking habits, including drinking alone at 23 and 24 then reporting signs of alcohol use disorder by 35.
The team found that young women who drink alone are especially vulnerable to alcohol use disorder later in adulthood.
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“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,” said lead author Kasey Creswell, associate professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon University.
“Even after we account for well-known risk factors, like 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 noted that pandemic-related stressors might only intensify the ongoing problem.
“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 said.
Pandemic stress fueled a sharp rise in alcohol consumption, including binge drinking that rose 21 percent since the onset of COVID-19. Studies suggest this uptick could result in 100 additional deaths and 2,800 additional cases of liver failure by 2023.
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