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Long-term study identifies risks associated with adolescent drinking

All drinking at the age of 16 is associated with an increased risk of drinking problems at the age of 30, but some problems are specifically related to binge drinking whilst others are more strongly related to frequent drinking.

A study of data from a UK national birth cohort examined the separate effects of binge drinking and frequent drinking at the age of 16 on a range of outcomes at the age of 30. Binge drinking was defined as having drunk four or more drinks in a row at least twice in the last two weeks. Frequency of drinking was classified as ‘rarely or never,’ ‘weekly or less often’ or ‘two or more times per week.’ In fact, most of the results were similar for ‘weekly or less often’ and ‘two or more times per week’ so ‘frequent drinking’ can be taken to mean ‘more often than rarely.’

Both binge drinking and frequent drinking were predictive of heavy drinking and alcohol dependency at age 30 and neither were predictive of heavy smoking, psychiatric problems or homelessness. For other measures, the associations differed for binge drinking and for frequent drinking. Binge drinking was associated with lower social class, civil or criminal convictions, significant accidents, temporary exclusions from school and leaving school without qualifications. Frequent drinking, on the other hand, was associated with higher social status, use of illicit drugs and pregnancy before the age of 18, though the last was only for those who drank two or more times per week.

Source:  Viner, R. M. and B. Taylor (2007). "Adult outcomes of binge drinking in adolescence: findings from a UK national birth cohort." Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 61: 902-907.

Download the full article, [Adolescent binge drinking 07] here. (pdf 136kb)