Investigating the nature of depressive experiences in adults who self-medicate low mood with alcohol

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Objective: This study sought to explore if individuals who self-medicate with alcohol experience higher levels of depression, and if symptom level experiences are affected by the behaviour of self-medication. Design: Data was from the Wave I (2001-2002) National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions - NESARC. Only participants who experienced either one or both of the two stem questions which highlight the key symptoms of depression were included (n=13,753).
Results: A one factor model of depression was supported. Experiences of suicidality were more likely to be endorsed by people who self-medicated, compared to those with low mood who do not use alcohol in this way. Typically, more common experiences of depression in the form of appetite difficulties, were less likely to be reported by those who self-medicated, compared to those who do not.
Conclusions: The findings aid understanding of the drinking patterns and other mental health correlates of those who engage in the behaviour of self-medication. Findings indicate that those who self-medicate are at a higher risk for suicidality, given the same level of depression. These findings highlight the importance of identifying these potentially problematic health behaviours as early as possible, due to these risks.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-24
Number of pages6
Early online date21 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 30 Sept 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Inc.

Copyright © 2022 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


  • Alcohol
  • Depression
  • Low mood
  • Self-medication
  • Sucidality
  • Suicidality
  • Depression/epidemiology
  • Ethanol
  • Humans
  • Adult
  • Mental Health
  • Self Medication/psychology


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