Psychopathology associated with drinking and alcohol use disorders in the college and general adult populations

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2005 Feb 14;77(2):139-50. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2004.07.012.


This paper examines the associations between past-year drinking status and the prevalence of 15 different past-year anxiety, mood and personality disorders, using a large (n = 43,093) nationally representative sample of the U.S. population. The prevalence of these disorders and their associations with drinking are compared for college students 18-29 years of age, other youth 18-29 years of age, and adults 30 years of age and older. After adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics and past-year tobacco and illicit drug use, only drinkers with alcohol dependence experienced an excess risk of a mood or anxiety disorder among college students 18-29 years of age, OR = 2.4. In contrast, the excess risk of any mood or anxiety disorder associated with drinking status among non-college youth varied from an OR of 1.8 for non-binge drinkers to 4.7 for drinkers with alcohol dependence. Among persons 30 years of age and older, the degree of excess risk was slightly lower but still higher than those for college students, OR = 1.5-3.8. Similarly, the excess odds of any personality disorder associated with drinking varied from 1.6 to 5.0 for the younger, non-college group and from 1.5 to 3.8 for the older adults, with no significant effect observed among college students. Factors that may help explain the weaker association of psychopathology and drinking in the college population include selectivity and greater availability of social and treatment resources that serve as alternatives to self-medicating the symptoms of psychological distress with alcohol.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology
  • Alcoholism / complications
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology*
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Mental Disorders / etiology
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Prevalence
  • Psychopathology
  • Students / psychology*
  • Universities*