Associations between adolescent heavy drinking and problem drinking in early adulthood: implications for prevention

J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2012 Jul;73(4):542-8. doi: 10.15288/jsad.2012.73.542.


Objective: We assessed how heavy episodic drinking (HED) in adolescence (Time 1) was related to hazardous drinking as well as symptoms of alcohol problems and dependence in early adulthood (Time 2). The key question was to what extent preventive measures targeted at underage HED may have a potential to reduce problem drinking in early adulthood.

Method: Data are from the 1992 (Time 1, ages 14-17 years) and 2005 (Time 2) waves of the Young in Norway Longitudinal Study (N = 1,764). In addition to odds ratios and relative risks, we calculated population-attributable fractions to estimate how the prevalence of hazardous drinking and alcohol problems in early adulthood would be affected if adolescent HED at various frequencies were eliminated. The results were adjusted for age, gender, and measures on impulsivity and delinquency.

Results: The risk of problem drinking at Time 2 increased with increasing frequency of HED at Time 1, but a great deal of discontinuity in drinking behaviors was also observed. The population-attributable fractions indicated that if all instances of HED at Time 1 were eliminated, the expected reduction in hazardous drinking and alcohol problems at Time 2 would be 11% and 15%, respectively.

Conclusions: Because of a marked discontinuity in drinking behaviors from adolescence to early adulthood, the potential long-term effects of interventions targeted at HED among youth are likely to be limited.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • Adolescent Development*
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / epidemiology
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / physiopathology*
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / prevention & control
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / therapy
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology
  • Alcoholism / etiology*
  • Alcoholism / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Health Policy
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Norway / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Assessment
  • Young Adult