Age at onset of alcohol use and DSM-IV alcohol abuse and dependence: a 12-year follow-up

J Subst Abuse. 2001;13(4):493-504. doi: 10.1016/s0899-3289(01)00096-7.


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between age at drinking onset and the development of DSM-IV alcohol abuse and dependence in a 12-year prospective study of youth in the United States.

Methods: Logistic regression analyses were used to quantify the relationship between age at drinking onset and the development of alcohol abuse and dependence controlling for sociodemographic factors and problem indicators.

Results: The odds of alcohol dependence decreased by 5% in 1989 and 9.0% in 1994 for each year drinking onset was delayed. In 1994, the odds of alcohol abuse increased by 7.0% with each decreasing year of age at drinking onset, while age at drinking onset was not related to alcohol abuse in 1989. Several other risk factors were found to be strong and consistent predictors of abuse and dependence in 1989 and 1994, including being male, divorced, separated or never married, younger, and having an early history antisocial behaviors and marijuana use.

Implications: Implications of the results of this study are discussed in terms of other factors that may impact on the onset-abuse and onset-dependence relationship and the need to focus future prevention efforts.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Age of Onset
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Alcohol-Related Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Alcohol-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Alcoholism / diagnosis*
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • United States / epidemiology