Background: Age at first drink has been found to be associated with alcohol problems in adulthood, but little is known regarding the relationship of age at first drink and current alcohol intake variables. This study was designed to determine the relationship of age at first drink to traditional drinking variables as well as novel current drinking variables assessed for the first time in a national general population sample.
Method: Data on age of first drink, pathological drinking (DSM-IV alcohol abuse or dependence) and alcohol intake on typical drinking occasions were collected on a national general population sample of 2631 subjects by means of computerized telephone interviewing. Variables assessed for the first time in a national survey included the duration of the typical drinking episode and the predicted peak blood alcohol levels achieved during those episodes.
Results: Data from 2276 subjects who reported an age at first drink were used in this study. Men and lifetime pathological drinkers reported an earlier age at first drink than did, respectively, women or lifetime nonpathological drinkers. There were significant regression coefficients between age at first drink and several current drinking measures. The largest coefficients were usually found within younger age groups.
Conclusions: Age at first drink may be a useful predictive variable for some current drinking measures, including predicted peak blood alcohol levels as well as lifetime alcohol pathology. Further support was provided for the "convergence" hypothesis that the drinking habits of women have become more like those of men.