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Does alcohol lead to mental illness in early adolescence?


Those who drink alcohol early in puberty are more likely to have mental problems. These include, for example, behavioral problems such as aggression, but also physical discomfort without an organic cause. Affected teenagers have a certain level of suffering and are more susceptible to mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders later in life. This is suggested by the results of a Spanish study.

Almost 3,700 students from Complutense University in Madrid took part in the study. Each subject had already drunk alcohol without abuse in their lifetime. In questionnaires, the participants anonymously provided information on their age, how often and how much alcohol they consumed. Symptoms relevant to psychology were also recorded.

Apparently, an early start to alcohol consumption between the ages of 11 and 13 promotes psychological complaints. The risk was significantly higher than for teenagers who had drunk alcohol for the first time at the age of 16. Adolescents complained most frequently about physical malaise without organic findings such as muscle pain, respiratory and gastrointestinal complaints. Hostility, aggression and violent behavior towards oneself and others were also common.

There were clear differences between the sexes: in general, girls were more susceptible to the negative effects of early alcohol consumption. In addition, they were more likely to show signs of depression and anxiety, while male teenagers were prone to outward behaviors such as impulsiveness and aggressiveness.

According to the scientists, it is particularly important in early puberty to counteract alcohol consumption and intoxication. Apparently, alcohol consumption in this sensitive phase and later psychological disorders are related, the authors write in the journal Psicothema. However, it has not been conclusively clarified whether alcohol causes these symptoms or whether people with certain personality traits tend to drink.
Heike Kreutz, aid

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