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Original Research

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

Ye Zhang, Frank Allen Sloan.

Background: Alcohol dependence/abuse and depression are positively related. No study has addressed
how depression is linked to drinking and driving through various underlying channels in the same study
so far. Methods: This study investigated the relationships between depression, alcohol dependence/
abuse, and the number of self-reported drinking and driving episodes. We also explored three possible
underlying behavioral channels; (1)binge drinking; (2)use of designated driver, and (3)use drinking selfcontrol.
Data on 1634 drinkers came from a survey fielded in eight US cities. We employed ordinary
least squares regression (OLS) and path analysis to assess drinking and driving and underlying channels.
Results: With OLS, being depressed increased the number of drinking and driving episodes during the
past year by 0.572, however this effect disappears 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. Conclusion: 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.

Key words: depression; drinking and driving; alcohol dependence/abuse; designated driver; binge drinking; self-control

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