Early depression can lead to alcohol use

August 22, 2008

Early depression can lead to alcohol use

(November 24 2006
By Megan Rauscher

New York – Children and pre-adolescents who show signs of depression may turn to alcohol sooner rather than later, researchers report. All the more reason, they say, to catch and treat early-life depression.

“Little is known about the impact of depression on the onset of alcohol use in adolescents,” Dr Ping Wu from Columbia University, New York, told Reuters Health.

Wu and colleagues explored this topic in a cohort of Puerto Rican 10- to 13-year-olds participating in a long-term mental health study. They conducted face-to-face interviews with the children and their parents on several occasions between 2000 and 2004.

Among a total of 1 119 children who had never used alcohol at the start of the study, 110 (9,8 percent) reported using alcohol in the previous year at one or more follow-up assessment.

The researchers defined alcohol use as drinking a full can of beer, a glass of wine or wine cooler, a shot of liquor, or a mixed drink – not just sips from another person’s drink.

Depressive symptoms were positively related with the early onset of drinking, report Wu and colleagues in the medical journal Paediatrics.

Rates of alcohol initiation during follow-up varied markedly by level of depression. Roughly 4,1 percent of children with one or fewer depressive symptoms at baseline starting drinking during follow-up, compared with 10.2 percent of those with two to nine depressive symptoms, and 14,1 percent of those with 10 or more depressive symptoms.

The 899 children with medium to high levels of depressive symptoms were more than twice as likely to use alcohol as the 220 children with low levels of depressive symptoms, according to the report.

“The finding that early life depressive symptoms may lead to earlier onset of alcohol use has important clinical and policy implications,” Wu told Reuters Health, “because studies have shown that people who had early onset of alcohol use were much more likely to develop alcohol abuse/dependence later in their lives.”

Therefore, “it is important to identify and treat depression in pre-adolescent children,” Wu emphasized.

SOURCE: Paediatrics, November 2006.

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