Loneliness and Increased Hazardous Alcohol Use: Data from a Nationwide Internet Survey with 1-Year Follow-Up

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Sep 24;19(19):12086. doi: 10.3390/ijerph191912086.


We aimed to examine the association between loneliness and developing alcohol dependence or hazardous alcohol use. A cohort study was conducted utilizing data from a nationwide internet survey in 2021 and 2022 in Japan. A total of 15,854 follow-up participants (55% men, with a mean age of 52.8 years) were divided based on AUDIT scores: nondrinkers (AUDIT: 0), low-risk drinkers (AUDIT: 1-7), medium-risk drinkers (AUD: 8-14), high-risk drinkers (AUDIT: 15-19), and probable alcohol dependence (AUDIT: 20-40). The University of California, Los Angeles Loneliness Scale (Version 3), a short-form three-item scale, was used to assess loneliness (high loneliness score of ≥6). The prevalence of high loneliness was higher in nondrinkers than that in low- and medium-risk drinkers, i.e., 22%, 18%, and 17%, respectively, as well as in high-risk drinkers (32%) and those with probable alcohol dependence (43%) compared to non-high-risk drinkers (19%). After adjusting for various factors (sociodemographic, social isolation, psychological distress, and smoking), non-high-risk drinkers (AUDIT: 0-14) with high loneliness were more likely to become high-or-over-risk drinkers (AUDIT: 15-40) than those without high loneliness, with adjusted risk ratios of 1.45 (95% confidence interval: 1.08-1.96) through multivariable binary logistic regression. Among non-high-risk drinkers, people with high loneliness scores at baseline were associated with increased high-risk drinking patterns with probable alcohol dependence.

Keywords: COVID-19; alcohol use disorders; alcohol use disorders identification test; hazardous alcohol use; loneliness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology
  • Alcoholism* / epidemiology
  • Alcoholism* / psychology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Loneliness
  • Male
  • Middle Aged

Grants and funding

This study was supported by KAKENHI Grants from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) [Grant Nos. 15K19256, 17H03589, 19K10671, 19K10446, 18H03107, 18H03062, 19H03860, and 21H04856]; a JSPS Grant-in-Aid for Young Scientists [Grant No. 19K19439]; the Research Support Program to Apply the Wisdom of the University to Tackle COVID-19-Related Emergency Problems, University of Tsukuba; Health Labour Sciences Research Grants [Grant Nos. 19FA1005; 19FG2001; and 19FA1012]; the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED) [Grant No. 2033648]; Health Labor Sciences Research Grants [H26-junkankitou-ippan-023, H28-junkankitou-ippan-002, H28-junkankitou-ippan-008, and H29-tokubetsu-site-006], and the Health, Labor and Welfare Sciences Research Grants: Research on policies for global health issues [JPMH21BA1001]. The findings and conclusions of this study are the primary responsibilities of the authors and do not represent the official views of the research funders.