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The relationship between alcohol use and mental disorders from adolescence to young adulthood - longitudinal analyses from a large Australian cohort study

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Date Commenced:
01/2012
Project Supporters:

Australian Rotary Health Research Fund

Drug Type:
Project Members: 
image - 1314158526 Wendy Swift 013
Dr Wendy Swift
Senior Lecturer
Project Main Description: 

This study is part of the long-running '2000 stories' project.

Few longitudinal data exist on the relationship between alcohol use, mental health, and outcomes in young adulthood. This study aims to uncover the contribution that alcohol use and misuse make to mental health in adolescents and young adults by undertaking analyses of data from a major Australian longitudinal study. Outcomes focused on in this study include the development and persistence of risky drinking, alcohol abuse and dependence; the development of anxiety and depressive disorders; life outcomes, such as educational and occupational attainment and social functioning, among those with depressive and anxiety disorders; and life outcomes in those with personality disorders.

Project Collaborators: External: 

Professor George Patton
University of Melbourne; Murdoch Childrens Research Institute

Professor Wayne Hall
University of Queensland

Dr Christina O’Loughlin
Murdoch Childrens Research Institute

Dr Helena Romanuik
Murdoch Childrens Research Institute

Professor John Carlin
University of Melbourne / Murdoch Childrens Research Institute

Rationale: 

There is a pressing need to understand the longer term impacts of processes that manifest during adolescence. One particularly significant area is the link between alcohol use, common mental health problems and life-course outcomes. Despite this need, few longitudinal data exist on the relationship between alcohol use, mental health, and outcomes in young adulthood. We have limited understanding of the longer-term impact of the co-occurrence of disorders in adolescence upon: alcohol use and disorders in adulthood; mental disorders in young adulthood; and life outcomes such as employment, education and social relationships. This study will contribute some of the best available information on the natural history and social contexts relevant to alcohol and its relationship to common mental health disorders across young adulthood in Australia.

Aims: 

To understand the contribution that alcohol use and misuse make to mental health in adolescents and young adults by undertaking analyses of data from a major Australian longitudinal study.

Specifically, we wanted to find out:

  1. What patterns of drinking in adolescence predict the development and persistence of risky drinking and alcohol abuse and dependence through young adulthood?
  2. Does adolescent alcohol use or misuse predict the persistence of adolescent anxiety and depressive disorders into young adulthood?
  3. Does adolescent alcohol use or misuse increase the risk of adverse life outcomes among those with adolescent anxiety and depressive disorders, in areas such as educational and occupational attainment, welfare dependence, relationships and social functioning?
  4. Does problematic alcohol use in young adulthood exacerbate unfavourable life outcomes in those with personality disorders?
Design and Method: 

We used data from a major Australian longitudinal study, the Victorian Adolescent Health Cohort Study (VAHCS) which has collected data on almost 2,000 participants, on nine occasions, since the age of 14 years. We conducted a range of cross-sectional and prospective analyses examining the associations between alcohol use, alcohol use problems and mental health, during adolescence and young adulthood.

Progress/Update: 

Papers are in preparation. 

Output: 

Degenhardt, L., O’Loughlin, C., Swift, W., Romaniuk, H., Carlin, J., Coffey, C., Hall, W. and Patton, G. (2013) The persistence of adolescent binge drinking into adulthood: findings from a 15-year prospective cohort study, BMJ Open, 3:8, DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2013-003015
http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/3/8/e003015.short

Progress report for Australian Rotary Health, Award received from Australian Rotary Health and presentation made at their annual Christmas dinner, December 3rd 2012. 

Benefits: 

The analyses in this project are all novel questions that have never been answered in any Australian cohort of young people. The analyses have enormous potential to clarify the longer term impacts of adolescent drinking on mental health and related outcomes and thereby to inform the design of public policies to reduce these disorders. These data will be of considerable importance to policy makers in health and social services as well as informing clinical practice.

Project Research Area: 
Drug Type: 
Project Status: 
Completed
Year Completed: 
2013