This is a copy of the presentation made by Louise Birrell at the 2014 NDARC Annual Research Symposium.
Introduction: Anxiety, depressive and substance use disorders often first emerge during childhood and adolescence. An early age of first drinking has been linked to the development of later substance use disorders and health risk behaviours, which impact on young people current functioning and also limit their future life options. Of particular interest is the relationship between depression, anxiety and alcohol use, as these problems frequently co-occur have overlapping risk factors and interact. To date, little research has focused on how anxiety and mood disorders relate to drinking initiation and in particular, the temporal sequencing of these disorders.
Aim: The aim of this study is twofold; first, to explore onset of alcohol use, mood and anxiety disorders in a representative sample of young Australians, and second, to examine the bidirectional relationships between alcohol initiation, anxiety and depression. Specifically, this study will explore if pre-existing mood and/or anxiety disorders relate to a decreased age of alcohol initiation, and conversely, if an early age of onset for alcohol use is associated with a greater risk for developing anxiety and/or mood disorders.
Method: The 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing was a nationally representative household survey of 8841 Australians aged 16-85 years old. It assessed participants for the most common DSM-IV mental disorders.
Results: Results are pending and will report on the prevalence and temporal sequencing of mood disorders, anxiety disorders and onset of alcohol use in the Australian general population, with particular focus on those aged 16-24 years old.
Implications: A clear understanding of the relationship between mood or anxiety disorders and drinking initiation will help to inform prevention and early intervention efforts by highlighting important target areas and optimal timing for interventions that have the potential to prevent significant impairment later in life.