Having friends in childhood may help keep you clean and sober as a young adult, new research suggests.
Researchers from Arizona State University (ASU) interviewed more than 300 college students who participated in assessments that focused on childhood loneliness, stress levels and drinking behaviors. The results determined there was a link between feelings of loneliness in their pre-adolescent years and current drinking and stress levels.
"In young adults, childhood loneliness before age 12 was associated with perceived stress right now and affected dysregulated drinking," said study author Julie Patock-Peckham, an assistant research professor in ASU's Department of Psychology.
The research predicts a grim future as alcohol usage continues to increase across the country. More women are turning to drink, according to data from the U.S. National Institutes of Health that found that alcohol use in women is more likely to result in higher rates of alcohol abuse than it does in men.
Another study found that the pandemic was responsible for a surge in drinking rates by as much as 14% in adults over 30, as people turned to alcohol to quell anxiety and isolation.
"The data used in this study were collected before the pandemic, and the findings suggest that we could have another public health crisis on our hands in a few years as today's children grow up," Patock-Peckham said in a university news release.
"We need more research into whether mitigating childhood loneliness could be a way to disrupt the pathways that lead to alcohol use disorders in adults," she said. "Combating childhood loneliness should help to reduce impaired control over drinking, especially among women."
The researchers only found an association between child loneliness and later alcohol trends, not a cause-and-effect link.
The study, funded by the U.S. National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, was published online recently in the journal Addictive Behaviors Reports.
Visit SAMHSA's national hotline for more on help for treating alcohol use.
SOURCE: Arizona State University, news release, July 19, 2022