Age of drinking onset and unintentional injury involvement after drinking

JAMA. 2000 Sep 27;284(12):1527-33. doi: 10.1001/jama.284.12.1527.


Context: In 1997, unintentional injury was the leading cause of death for persons aged 1 to 34 years. Approximately one third of deaths due to unintentional injury in the United States are estimated to be alcohol related. Onset of drinking at an early age has been found to be associated with alcohol dependence, but whether early-onset drinking increases risk for unintentional injury while drinking is unknown.

Objective: To explore whether persons who started drinking at an early age are more likely to have experienced unintentional injuries while under the influence of alcohol.

Design and setting: The National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiology Survey, a cross-sectional survey conducted in 1992 of a representative sample of the US population.

Participants: A total of 42,862 randomly selected adults (response rate, 90%; mean age, 44 years).

Main outcome measures: Unintentional injury involvement while under the influence of alcohol by age of drinking onset (categorized as <14 years, each age from 14-20 years, or >/=21 years).

Results: Relative to respondents who began drinking at age 21 years or older, those who started before age 14 years as well as those who started at each intervening age up to 21 years were significantly more likely to have been injured while under the influence of alcohol, even after controlling for history of alcohol dependence, heavy drinking frequency during the period that they drank most, family history of alcoholism, and other characteristics associated with earlier onset of drinking. After adjusting for these variables, odds ratios for having been injured while under the influence of alcohol were as follows: for younger than 14 years, 2.98 (95% confidence interval [CI], 2.29-3.89); age 14 years, 2.96 (95% CI, 2.26-3.88); age 15 years, 3.14 (95% CI, 2.48-3.97); age 16 years, 2.38 (95% CI, 1.90-2.98); age 17 years, 2.12 (95% CI, 1.66-2.71); age 18 years, 1. 33 (95% CI, 1.08-1.64); age 19 years, 1.42 (95% CI, 1.07-1.89); and age 20 years, 1.39 (95% CI, 1.01-1.91).

Conclusion: Drinking onset at ages younger than 21 years is associated with having experienced alcohol-related injuries. JAMA. 2000;284:1527-1533

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidents / statistics & numerical data*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age of Onset
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Regression Analysis
  • Risk
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology*