Alcohol drinking, especially light drinking, and depressive symptoms in adolescents

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2021 Oct 1;227:108932. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2021.108932. Epub 2021 Jul 28.


Background: The association of depressive symptoms with moderate and heavy drinking in adolescents have been reported in many studies, but that with light drinking is unclear.

Methods: In a 2012-13 school-based survey, 20,951 secondary school students (aged 11-20 years, 51.3 % boys) from 44 schools in Hong Kong reported their sociodemographic information, depressive symptoms, drinking patterns and other lifestyle factors. The associations of depressive symptoms with drinking status, drinking frequency and quantity, and the usual type of alcohol beverage consumed were examined using robust Poisson regression accounting for school clustering and covariates.

Results: The prevalence of current drinking and depressive symptoms was 13.6 % and 19.0 %, respectively. Depressive symptoms were associated with former drinking (adjusted prevalence ratio 1.48, 95 % confidence interval 1.30-1.68) and measures of light drinking: experimental drinking (1.29, 1.19-1.39), less-than-monthly drinking (1.40, 1.18-1.67) and consuming half a drink or less (1.33, 1.12-1.58), and such associations were stronger in younger adolescents. Associations were also observed for light drinking patterns of 1-2 drinks less than monthly (1.72, 1.40-2.11) and half a drink monthly (1.51, 1.21-1.88). Consuming fruit wine (1.51, 1.27-1.79) and beer (1.63, 1.42-1.88) with relatively low alcohol contents was also associated with depressive symptoms.

Conclusions: Our study provided first evidence that even light drinking in terms of the amount, frequency and type of alcohol beverages or light drinking patterns such as consuming 1-2 drinks less than monthly and half a drink monthly were associated with depressive symptoms in adolescents. Our results support total alcohol abstinence in adolescents.

Keywords: Adolescents; Depressive symptoms; Hong Kong; Light drinking.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Alcohol Drinking* / epidemiology
  • Alcoholic Beverages
  • Beer
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression* / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Schools