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Anxiety increases drinking in teens

by Tory Wolk, blogger

We’ve all heard a friend say something along the lines of, “I’m so stressed, this week was so long—LET’S GO PARTY!” There may be some truth to that statement.

Many college students use drinking as a way to copy with a heavy workload or failed exam. A study in the scientific journal “Alcohol and Alcoholism” has discovered that a strong relationship exists between anxiety and substance use—basically, anxiety and stress do cause teens to drink more than usual.

A Finnish study  looked at the anxiety levels and drinking patterns of approximately 1,000 teenagers. Two years later, the study checked back in with the teens. Sixty-five percent of the participants who drank weekly at the start of the study and had high anxiety continued to drink weekly after two years, while only 55 percent of the participants without significant levels of anxiety continued to drink that often.
The two year follow-up was chosen because the development of the teenagers and changes in their mental health would occur quickly over that time period.
In the past, researchers believed that those with social phobias, like the fear of being judged in public, would drink more frequently than others. It turns out, though, that it is actually the opposite; teens with social phobias would not put themselves in social situations with alcohol in the first place.
One question that the study could not answer was whether or not anxiety has a larger effect than genetics on the tendency to drink alcohol regularly. This goes back to the question of whether the environment or genetics plays a larger role in determining one’s behavior.
The lesson to take away from this study is that anxiety can cause teens to drink more heavily than usual. If you’re feeling anxious or stressed, be aware that you are more likely to want to drink and try to monitor yourself.