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Background: The relationship between anxiety and alcohol use is unclear, and moderating factors, such as drinking to cope (DTC) motives, may explain mixed findings. Methods: Using the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), we examined associations between generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) at age 18 and frequent drinking, frequent bingeing, hazardous drinking and harmful drinking at ages 18 (unadjusted n = 3462) and 21 (unadjusted n = 2076), in a sample of late adolescent drinkers. Analyses were adjusted for sociodemographic, parental, and adolescent confounders. We also examined whether DTC motives influenced the strength and direction of associations between GAD and alcohol use. Results: GAD was positively associated with all alcohol outcomes at baseline (unadjusted OR (95% CI): frequent drinking 1.40 (1.02 to 1.91); frequent bingeing 1.40 (0.96 to 2.04); hazardous drinking 1.44 (1.08 to 1.92); harmful drinking 1.98 (1.22 to 3.23)). GAD increased the odds of harmful drinking at age 21 (unadjusted OR 1.72, 95% CI 1.09 to 2.73), but there was no clear evidence of a longitudinal relationship between GAD and the other alcohol use outcomes. There was no clear evidence of a GAD x DTC interaction on alcohol use at ages 18 or 21. Findings were consistent across various multiply imputed datasets. Conclusions: In adolescence, GAD symptoms are associated with frequent drinking, frequent bingeing, hazardous drinking, and harmful drinking. In early adulthood, associations remain for harmful drinking only. DTC motives do not appear to moderate the relationship at either age.
Original languageEnglish
Article number107480
Number of pages8
JournalDrug and Alcohol Dependence
Early online date6 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 6 Nov 2019

Structured keywords

  • Brain and Behaviour
  • Tobacco and Alcohol
  • Physical and Mental Health


  • generalized anxiety disorder
  • alcohol
  • drinking-to-cope
  • longitudinal

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