Depression, Alcohol Dependence and Abuse, and Drinking and Driving Behavior.

Journal Article (Journal Article)


Alcohol dependence/abuse and depression are positively related. Prior studies focused on relationships between drinking and driving and alcohol dependence/abuse, drinking and driving and problem drinking, or drinking and driving and depression separately. No study has addressed how depression is linked to drinking and driving through various underlying channels in the same study.


This study investigated relationships between depression, alcohol dependence/abuse, and the number of self-reported drinking and driving episodes. We also explored underlying behavioral channels between depression and alcohol dependence/abuse and binge drinking, reducing drinking amounts when planning to drive, and use of designated drivers. Data on 1,634 drinkers came from a survey fielded in eight U.S. cities. We employed ordinary least squares regression (OLS) and path analysis to assess drinking and driving and underlying channels.


With OLS, being depressed increased the number of drinking and driving episodes during the past year by 0.572. This increase decreased to 0.411 episodes/year increase after adding socio-demographic characteristics and household income and lost statistical significance after controlling for alcohol dependence/abuse. The path analysis showed that depression is positively associated with drinking and driving, indirectly operating through not using a designated driver, but is not directly associated with drinking and driving. Alcohol dependence/abuse is directly associated with drinking and driving, and indirectly with drinking and driving through binge drinking.


Our results suggest that treatment should focus on helping individuals with depression to obtain assistance from others, such as obtaining a designated driver. Since self-control of drinking in anticipation of driving did not significantly reduce drinking and driving episodes, this study finds no empirical support for emphasizing improved self-control when the treatment objective is reducing drinking and driving frequency. While binge drinking is associated with drinking and driving, the more appropriate way to influence binge drinking is treating alcohol dependence/abuse rather than depression per se.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Zhang, Y; Sloan, FA

Published Date

  • January 2014

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 3 / 4

Start / End Page

  • 212 - 219

PubMed ID

  • 26236541

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC4517611

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 2146-8346

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.5455/jbh.20141115011440


  • eng