Teens Who Drink Solo Are in More Trouble Than We Thought

A first-of-its-kind study reveals teens who drink alone are much more than "at-risk."
A first-of-its-kind study reveals teens who drink alone are much more than "at-risk."

Have you found yourself knocking a few back when no one else is around? A recent study calls solitary drinking into question, finding that young people who drink alone are more likely to struggle with alcoholism as they enter adulthood.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University studied over 700 young adults’ drinking habits and found that teens and 20-somethings who drank alone had a 50 percent higher chance of developing alcoholism by age 25 than those who drank in a social setting.

New Research – Frightening Results

The longitudinal study – the first of its kind – was led by psychological scientist Kasey Creswell, who followed a large group of teenage drinkers between the ages of 12 and 18, until they reached young adulthood at age 25.

They went through exhaustive assessments over this time, which ranged from drinking frequency and consumption to frequency of solitary and social drinking. The researchers also kept track of those who eventually developed alcohol disorders.

Of the total number surveyed, approximately 60 percent of the subjects reported that they only ever drank in social settings. But the others – nearly four in ten – said that they did drink alone at least on occasion. This is higher than the usual estimate of solitary drinking, and the rate of solitary drinking was much higher in the teens with early symptoms of alcohol abuse.

The solitary drinkers also drank more often than the other teenage drinkers, consumed more during each drinking session and also were younger when they got started drinking.

Finding the Underlying Cause

The most interesting aspect of the study was the “why.” Creswell’s survey revealed that teenagers who tended to drink alone were doing so most likely to self-medicate. They were using it as an escape mechanism to cope with difficult emotions and situations. Because of this, this group of solitary teen drinkers were much more likely to develop serious alcohol problems, including alcohol dependence, by age 25.

If these findings hit home for you, then maybe it’s time to question why you feel the need to pour a glass when no one’s around. Are you feeling guilty about your need to drink and thus hiding it from others? Are you trying to cope with negative external factors? Are you simply just bored? Whatever the reason, drinking alone – according to this study – is a red flag that you shouldn’t ignore.

Image Source: iStock

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