Generational increase in young women's drinking: a prospective analysis of mother-daughter dyads

JAMA Psychiatry. 2014 Aug;71(8):952-7. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.513.


Importance: Increases in alcohol use in young women over recent decades are shown by national survey data but have yet to be replicated using prospective data.

Objective: To compare change in alcohol use over a generation of young women born in Australia from 1981 to 1983 at 21 years with that of their mothers at the same age.

Design, setting, and participants: Data came from the Mater University Study of Pregnancy, a prospective prebirth cohort study that recruited all pregnant mothers attending a hospital in Brisbane, Australia, from 1981 to 1983. The analyses were restricted to 1053 mothers who were aged 18 to 25 years of age at the baseline measurement and their daughters who were between the same ages when assessed 21 years later.

Main outcome and measure: Assessing the increase in the same prospective measures of 4 levels of alcohol use between mothers and daughters.

Results: Multinomial logistic regression for clustered data indicated daughters were at greater odds of consuming high (odds ratio [OR] = 5.68 [95% CI, 4.24-7.57]) and moderate (OR = 2.81 [95% CI, 2.18-3.63]) levels of alcohol than their mothers. Not having a dependent child roughly doubled the odds of all levels of drinking in both cohorts. Undertaking or completing tertiary education had no effect on consumption. There was an interaction between mothers' or daughters' drinking and partner status (χ23 = 12.56; P = .007); having a partner doubled the daughters' odds of consuming high levels of alcohol (no partner: OR = 0.51 [95% CI, 0.31-0.80]) while the odds of drinking at the highest level were more than 5 times for mothers who were single (OR = 5.65 [95% CI, 2.99-12.35]).

Conclusions and relevance: To our knowledge, we provide the first longitudinal evidence confirming that female alcohol use has dramatically increased over a generation, especially at higher levels of drinking. Later age at child bearing contributed to this increase and the relationship between alcohol use and having a partner was found to reverse alcohol consumption across the 2 generations.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mothers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Nuclear Family*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult