Psychological correlates and binge drinking behaviours among Canadian youth: a cross-sectional analysis of the mental health pilot data from the COMPASS study

BMJ Open. 2019 Jun 29;9(6):e028558. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2018-028558.


Objective: The objective of this study was to examine associations between depression, anxiety and binge drinking among a large sample of Canadian youth, while testing the moderating effect of flourishing. This research uses data from the Cannabis, Obesity, Mental health, Physical activity, Alcohol, Smoking, Sedentary Behaviour (COMPASS) study (2012-2021) with a large sample size collecting data on youth health behaviours within Canadian secondary schools.

Design: Cross-sectional SETTING: 14 secondary schools across Ontario and British Columbia, Canada.

Participants: A sample of grade 9-12 students (n=6570) who participated in the Mental Health pilot of the COMPASS study PRIMARY AND SECONDARY OUTCOME MEASURES: Self-reported questionnaires assessed student binge drinking behaviours (5≥drinks), symptoms of depression (Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (Revised)-10 scores≥10) and anxiety (Generalised Anxiety Disorder 7-item Scale scores≥10), and flourishing (Diener's Flourishing Scale: 8-40).

Results: In our sample of 6570 students, 37.0% of students reported binge drinking in the last year, and 41.4% and 31.7% of students report clinically-relevant symptoms of depression and anxiety, respectively. Anxiety (adjusted OR (AOR): 0.57, (99% CI 0.15 to 2.22)) and depression (AOR: 1.98, (99% CI 0.76 to 5.13)) symptoms were not found to be associated with binge drinking and we did not detect any moderating role of flourishing. Rather, factors that were associated with increased odds of binge drinking included sports team participation (AOR: 1.67, (99% CI 1.37 to 2.03)) and use of other substances (tobacco (AOR: 3.00, (99% CI 2.12 to 4.25)) and cannabis (AOR: 7.76, (99% CI 6.36 to 9.46))). Similar associations were found for frequency of binge drinking.

Conclusions: Consistent with existing literature, binge drinking behaviours were problematic, as well as clinically-relevant symptoms of depression and anxiety. However, mental health problems and well-being may not be responsible for explaining patterns of binge drinking in youth. Targeted intervention efforts towards student athletes and concurrent substance users are necessary for addressing binge drinking in youth populations.

Keywords: high school; mental health; substance misuse.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anxiety* / diagnosis
  • Anxiety* / epidemiology
  • Binge Drinking* / diagnosis
  • Binge Drinking* / epidemiology
  • Binge Drinking* / psychology
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Correlation of Data
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression* / diagnosis
  • Depression* / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Needs Assessment
  • Preventive Psychiatry / methods
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Young Adult