Long-term effects of alcohol consumption on anxiety in adults: A systematic review

Addict Behav. 2024 Aug:155:108047. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2024.108047. Epub 2024 Apr 28.


Objective: Despite the high prevalence and comorbidity of alcohol consumption and anxiety, it is unclear whether alcohol consumption influences long-term anxiety. This study aimed to systematically review the literature on the long-term longitudinal effects of alcohol consumption on anxiety in adults.

Methods: EMBASE, PsychInfo, Medline, and Web of Science databases were systematically searched from inception to April 12th, 2024. Articles analysing the relationship between alcohol consumption and anxiety symptoms or anxiety disorder diagnosis at least three-months later in adults were eligible. Articles were screened and extracted by two independent reviewers with study quality assessed using the Mixed Methods Appraisal Tool.

Results: From 884 records, eight studies of mixed quality met inclusion criteria. One study using a sample representative of the USA population found low volume consumption was associated with lower long-term anxiety. All other studies used a convenience sample or a specific medical population sample. The significance and direction of the relationship between alcohol consumption and long-term anxiety in these studies varied, likely due to differences in alcohol consumption thresholds used and populations studied.

Conclusions: A paucity of research on the longitudinal effects of alcohol consumption on anxiety was found, highlighting a significant gap in the research literature. Furthermore, existing research, primarily focussed on clinical subpopulations, has yielded mixed results. Further research is needed to explore the longitudinal dose dependent impact of alcohol consumption on anxiety using samples representative of national populations.

Keywords: Alcohol; Anxiety; Long-term; Longitudinal; Systematic review.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking* / epidemiology
  • Alcohol Drinking* / psychology
  • Anxiety Disorders / epidemiology
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Anxiety* / epidemiology
  • Anxiety* / psychology
  • Humans