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J Dual Diagn. 2016 Apr-Jun;12(2):175-84. doi: 10.1080/15504263.2016.1172910. Epub 2016 Apr 15.

Prevalence and Trajectories of Psychiatric Symptoms Among Sober Living House Residents.

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a Alcohol Research Group, Public Health Institute , Emeryville , California , USA.



Sober living houses are alcohol- and drug-free recovery residences that help individuals with substance use disorders maintain long-term abstinence. Given the prevalence of co-occurring mental disorders among individuals entering substance use treatment, it is likely that many such residents are also contending with psychiatric symptoms, and it is unclear how these symptoms may affect their sobriety. This study sought to describe the prevalence and trajectories of different types of symptoms among sober living house residents and examine how these symptoms affect substance use outcomes.


Data for this study were collected as part of a larger study on outcomes among sober living house residents in Northern California. The current study examined data from 300 residents in two housing groups; residents were interviewed upon entry and re-interviewed at 6-, 12-, and 18-month follow-ups. Psychiatric symptoms were assessed using the Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI). General estimating equations tested changes in BSI global psychological distress and clinical symptom scales over time and examined the relationship between scale scores and substance use in longitudinal models controlling for demographics, length of stay, and psychiatric service utilization.


The average age of residents was 38.5 years (SD = 10.1) and they were mostly male (80%) and Caucasian (65%). Retention rates were high, with 90% (n = 269) participating in at least one follow-up interview. Overall psychological distress (Wald χ(2) = 7.99, df = 3, p = .046), symptoms of depression (Wald χ(2) = 13.57, df = 3, p = .004), and phobic anxiety (Wald χ(2) = 7.89, df = 3, p = .048) significantly improved over time. In all models examining the relationship between BSI scale scores and substance use, rates of abstinence and days of use among those who reported using substances also improved over time. Overall distress (OR = 0.48, p < .001) as well as higher scores on the somatization (OR = 0.56, p < .001), depression (OR = 0.53, p < .001), hostility (OR = 0.71, p = .006), and phobic anxiety (OR = 0.74, p = .012) subscales were significantly associated with a decreased likelihood of abstinence. Symptoms of somatization (B = 0.092, SE = 0.029, p = .002) were associated with an increase in the number of days substances were used among those who reported use.


Psychological symptoms among sober living house residents improve over time, but they are risk factors for relapse, suggesting that additional support provided to residents with psychiatric symptoms could improve substance use outcomes.


Brief Symptom Inventory; Sober living houses; psychiatric symptoms; recovery residences; sobriety

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