Well-Being Mental Health

Loneliness in childhood linked to problem drinking years later

“The data used in this study were collected before the pandemic, and the findings suggest that we could have another public health crisis on our hands in a few years as today’s children grow up,” one researcher said.
Close up of a glass of wine and a beer in a bar. Istock

Story at a glance


  • Researchers found that greater levels of childhood loneliness predicted early adulthood stress, which has been associated with drinking.

  • For the study, more than 300 college students completed assessments on childhood loneliness, current stress and their drinking habits.

  •  These assessments revealed finding an association between past loneliness and present issues.

Children who experience loneliness before age 12 risk stress and problem drinking later in young adulthood, a new study suggests

Researchers found, in a study set to be published in the journal Addictive Behaviors Reports, that greater levels of childhood loneliness predicted early adulthood stress, which has been associated with drinking.   

For the study, more than 300 college students completed assessments on childhood loneliness, current stress and their drinking habits. These assessments revealed finding an association between past loneliness and present issues.  

“The data used in this study were collected before the pandemic, and the findings suggest that we could have another public health crisis on our hands in a few years as today’s children grow up,” Julie Patock-Peckham, assistant research professor in the ASU Department of Psychology, said in a news release

“We need more research into whether mitigating childhood loneliness could be a way to disrupt the pathways that lead to alcohol use disorders in adults. Combating childhood loneliness should help to reduce impaired control over drinking, especially among women.”  

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separate study published earlier this month found that people who drink alone early in early adulthood risk developing alcohol use disorder later in life. 

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.   

Further, a study published in The Lancet last week found there are no health benefits from alcohol consumption in people under 39.  

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