Context: Despite prior evidence supporting cross-sectional associations of depression and alcohol use disorders, there is relatively little prospective data on the temporal association between depressed mood and maladaptive drinking, particularly across extended intervals.
Objective: To assess the association between depressed mood in childhood and alcohol use during adolescence and young adulthood by mood level and sex and race/ethnicity subgroups.
Design: Cohort study of individuals observed during late childhood, early adolescence, and young adulthood.
Setting: Urban mid-Atlantic region of the United States.
Participants: Two successive cohorts of students from 19 elementary schools have been followed up since entry into first grade (1985, cohort I [n = 1196]; 1986, cohort II [n = 1115]). The students were roughly equally divided by sex (48% female) and were predominantly African American (70%). Between 1989 and 1994, annual assessments were performed on students remaining in the public school system, and between 2000 and 2001, approximately 75% participated in an interview at young adulthood (n = 1692).
Main outcome measures: Among participants who reported having used alcohol, Cox and multinomial regression analyses were used to assess the association of childhood mood level, as measured by a depression symptom screener, with each alcohol outcome (incident alcohol intoxication, incident alcohol-related problems, and DSM-IV alcohol abuse and dependence).
Results: In adjusted regression analyses among those who drank alcohol, a high level of childhood depressed mood was associated with an earlier onset and increased risk of alcohol intoxication, alcohol-related problems during late childhood and early adolescence, and development of DSM-IV alcohol dependence in young adulthood.
Conclusions: Early manifestations associated with possible depressive conditions in childhood helped predict and account for subsequent alcohol involvement extending across life stages from childhood through young adulthood.