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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

People with mental disorders at greater risk of alcohol problems

Embargoed until 01 September 2011

People diagnosed with mental health problems like depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety disorder are at much higher risk of developing a dependence on alcohol, according to an Australian study.

The research, published in the September issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry, used data from 8,841 participants in the 2007 Australian Mental Health and Well-Being survey. All the participants were interviewed to assess if they had a mental disorder and if they had a dependence on alcohol or showed signs of alcohol misuse.

The researchers found that people who had been diagnosed with depression within the last 5 years were five times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than the general population. People who had recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder were seven times more likely, while people with anxiety disorders were three times more likely.

Lead researcher Dr Wenbin Liang, of Curtin University in Perth, said: “Our study shows that patients with a pre-existing diagnosis of affective and anxiety disorders are at higher risk of alcohol use problems. We cannot say from this study whether this association is causal. However it shows that we should view mental health disorders as a risk factor for future alcohol misuse and alcohol dependence.

“This could be used to identify people who are at increased risk of developing alcohol problems. If clinicians promoted self-awareness of alcohol use disorders during consultations with patients, this may help reduce the onset of disorders and improve access to early interventions.”

For further information, please contact:
Sarah Nevins
Press & Social Media Officer
Telephone: 020 3701 2543
Claire McLoughlin
Media & Communications Manager 
Telephone: 020 3701 2544
Out of hours contact number: 07860 755896



Liang W and Chikritzhs T. Affective disorders, anxiety disorders and the risk of alcohol dependence and misuse. British Journal of Psychiatry 2011; 199:219-224


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