A study done by the University of Bristol and published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence found a relationship between the diagnosis of a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) at the age of 18 and harmful or heavy drinking among this population three years later. The research utilized data from a long-term health study named Children of the 90s.

The research found that having generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) at age 18 related directly to:

  • Frequent binge drinking, or consuming five or more alcoholic beverages within two hours or less for men, and four or more drinks in two hours or less for women. Binge drinking is categorized by the amount of alcohol consumed and the time it takes to consume it. 
  • Harmful drinking or any level of drinking alcohol that results in negative events, such as physical, social, or psychological problems or injury and drinking while pregnant, is considered harmful drinking. 
  • Hazardous drinking or a pattern of drinking that puts a person at risk for negative health events, such as having harmful effects on the drinker or others, is considered hazardous drinking. Examples include exacerbating diseases or physical health problems, assaults or domestic violence, and death and injury through driving accidents.

Furthermore, GAD continued to be connected to harmful drinking at the age of 21. The study suggests that experiencing anxiety continues to have a strong relationship with later alcohol use. Developing positive coping strategies for adolescents to cope with anxiety, rather than engaging in drinking behaviors, may reduce the risk of anxiety, leading to harmful drinking in the future. However, anxiety can be a result of abstaining from drinking as well as a risk factor for starting to drink too much. Therefore, the relationship between mental health problems like anxiety and alcohol use is complicated. More research will help us to understand the connections between mental health and alcohol, so we may continue to uncover previously unknown associations and trends between the two. 

Trying to Deal With Anxiety Through Drinking and Looking for Help?

Anxiety can occur due to many internal and external factors and can be present at all stages of life. Adolescence is a vulnerable period in a person’s life, and drinking behaviors may develop as a result of being unable to cope with the anxiety. Having the right tools and coping skills can protect someone from developing an alcohol use disorder exacerbated by anxiety or other mental health issues. 


At Alta Loma Transformational Living, you will meet knowledgeable, compassionate professionals that understand addiction in all its forms.  Alta Loma uses an integrative and holistic approach to treat addiction and mental health issues. No treatment is one-size-fits-all, where you will have a team of experts prepared to create your customized treatment plan.  We offer care for your mind, body, and spirit, so that you can heal from the inside out and look forward to a lifetime of sobriety and wellness. If you are ready to take the first step in your recovery, please call us at 866-457-3843.