The burden of alcohol use: focus on children and preadolescents

Alcohol Res. 2013;35(2):186-92.


The study of alcohol use by children ages 12 and younger has been very limited. This article summarizes information from U.S. national and statewide surveys on the prevalence of alcohol use among children in grades 6 and lower, data on health conditions wholly attributable to alcohol, the prevalence of children's treatment admissions for alcohol abuse, and their rates of presentation at emergency departments for acute alcohol intoxication. Factors hampering the estimation of alcohol burden in this population include the lack of ongoing national surveys of alcohol use and problems in children, the hand-me-down nature of alcohol assessments in this population, and the lack of studies to establish whether there is a causal relationship between childhood-onset drinking and morbidity and mortality in adolescence and later in life that would permit determination of alcohol-attributable fractions. This article concludes that although the alcohol burden in childhood is low, it may be augmented by both referred alcohol burden through parental drinking and alcohol abuse and by deferred alcohol burden from longer-term consequences of early use.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects*
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Alcohol Drinking / mortality
  • Alcohol-Related Disorders / complications
  • Alcohol-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Alcohol-Related Disorders / mortality
  • Child
  • Cost of Illness*
  • Ethanol / poisoning
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parents


  • Ethanol