Objective: This study examined the association of trajectories of heavy episodic drinking (at least five alcoholic drinks on one occasion) during adolescence with health status and practices at age 24.
Method: Semiparametric group-based modeling and logistic regressions were used to analyze data from a longitudinal panel of 808 youths interviewed between 10 and 24 years of age.
Results: Four distinct trajectories of adolescent heavy episodic drinking were identified: nonheavy drinkers, late onsetters, escalators and chronic heavy drinkers. Overall, young adults who did not engage in heavy episodic drinking during adolescence had the lowest occurrence of health problems and were most likely to engage in safe health behaviors at age 24. Chronic and late-onset heavy episodic drinking during adolescence had negative effects on health status and practices at age 24. Adolescent chronic heavy drinkers were more likely to be overweight or obese and to have high blood pressure at age 24 than those who did not drink heavily in adolescence. Late-onset heavy drinkers were less likely to engage in safe driving practices at age 24 and were more likely to have been ill in the past year than adolescents who did not drink heavily. These health disparities remained even after current frequency of heavy episodic drinking at age 24, other adolescent drug use, ethnicity, gender and family poverty were controlled.
Conclusions: Heavy episodic alcohol use during adolescence has long-term, negative health consequences. Distinct patterns of adolescent heavy drinking affect health status and practices in young adulthood differently.