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A new study shows that some children aged 10 to 14 who are exposed to alcohol may get more severe symptoms of depression or anxiety in the long run.

The findings prompted the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) to warn parents that alcohol may just have the opposite effect as alcohol reduces cognitive performance, or leads to depression.

Research from the University Health Research Group showed that young people who were exposed to alcohol regularly showed stronger negative moods and behaviour (though this was not statistically significant) compared to children aged 10 to 12 who had not been exposed.

But this study, which was funded by NICE, the Health Council and a coalition of young people in the UK, found that the drinking habit among children aged 5 to 17 was linked to severe symptoms of psychiatric disorders.

The researchers analysed the prevalence of depression, anxiety and attention problems in 961 children and found that the children who were most likely to become ill at some time in their life had also more than once made a negative emotional diagnosis of “a mental illness”, which is more common among children aged 2 year and under.

Dr Reimold said: “The most significant associations
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