Restricting teens from drinking too much alcohol could reduce their risk of depression by age 20, researchers say.
One study found that 18-year-olds who find it difficult to stop drinking once they start have a 15 percent risk of developing a mental illness by age 24.
For comparison, the odds were 11 percent for those who were not addicted in their teens.
dr University College London’s Gemma Lewis said: “Problematic drinking habits could be a warning sign of future mental health problems.”
“Helping young people to avoid problem alcohol use could have a positive long-term impact on their mental health.”
About 11,326 young people contacted alcohol and drug services in the UK in 2021-2022, a 3 per cent increase on the previous year.
According to the Office for Health Improvement & Disparities, almost half of them reported having a problem with alcohol.
In 2019, there were over 40,000 alcohol-related hospitalizations among under-24s.
More than a quarter of these were mental and behavioral disorders as a result of alcohol.
However, young people are generally drinking less than they used to: around a quarter of English 15-year-olds got drunk twice or more in 2017-18.
It fell from 55 percent in 2001 to 2002.
Previous research has linked alcohol abuse to a variety of mental health problems, including depression, anxiety and psychosis.
According to the Office for National Statistics, around 16 per cent of adults in the UK suffered from moderate to severe depression in 2022.
The latest study published in the Lancet Psychiatryexamined how drinking alcohol in childhood affects depression in later years.
Researchers tracked 3,902 people born in south-west England in 1991 and 1992.
The signs of alcohol abuse in teenagers
Some noticeable signs of teenage alcohol abuse to look out for include:
- A physical reaction to alcohol, such as a hangover
- Prolonged loss of appetite
- sleep disorders
- Loss of interest in friends, school, or activities that were previously fun
- Reduced ability to think or concentrate
- They consume alcohol alone or more than their peers
- drink during the day
Source: Fort behavioral health
Signs of alcohol dependence included an inability to stop drinking, failure to meet normal expectations because of alcohol consumption, and feeling the need to drink after a strenuous session.
Adverse effects such as alcohol-related memory loss were also considered signs of addiction.
People who appeared to be addicted between the ages of 17 and 22 were more likely to develop depression by age 24 than people who weren’t.
However, how much people drank overall wasn’t associated with an increased risk — in part because heavy drinking at parties in the late teens may be the norm, researchers said.
dr Gemma Hammerton of the University of Bristol said: “Heavy alcohol consumption can be a precursor to addiction and can also have long-term adverse effects on physical health.”
“High frequency and volume of alcohol consumption therefore remain important goals to prevent or reduce in adolescence.”
Alcohol Change UK’s Mark Leyshon said: “The results of this new study underscore the importance of protecting young people from alcohol harm.”
“Early intervention and adequate funding for youth addiction services ensure that anyone who needs it receives the right support and treatment.”