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Teen Drinking Linked to Behavioral Problems

Teens who drink heavily are more likely than their peers to have behavioral and attention problems and suffer from anxiety and depression, new research finds.

Science Daily reports that a team led by researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology based their research on a study of nearly 9,000 Norwegian teenagers aged 13-19 years. Eighty percent of the teens said they had tried alcohol, and 29 percent said they had been drunk more than ten times in their lives.

The study, lead by Arve Strandheim from the NTNU Faculty of Medicine’s Department of Public Health and General Practice, found that boys who drank frequently were more likely to report conduct problems, and girls who drank frequently reported attention and conduct problems, along with anxiety and depression.

Forty-three percent of students who reported behavioral or other problems also reported having been drunk more than ten times in their lives, while only 27 percent of students who reported few or no conduct problems had been drunk more than ten times. Boys were only slightly more likely than girls to report drinking heavily.

The team used data from a comprehensive, population-based cross-sectional survey called Young HUNT. Ninety-one percent of the youth population in one Norwegian county answered the drinking and behavioral questionnaire as part of a larger comprehensive health survey of the entire county’s population aged 13 and older.

The researchers caution that because the study is based on a one-time questionnaire, it does not show a cause-and-effect relationship. But the study does suggest that adolescents with attention and conduct problems are at high risk for developing alcohol problems.

Teenaged girls with depression or anxiety should also be considered at high risk of developing alcohol problems, especially those aged 13-16.

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