Multiple trajectories of alcohol use and the development of alcohol use disorder: Do Swiss men mature-out of problematic alcohol use during emerging adulthood?

PLoS One. 2020 Jan 27;15(1):e0220232. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0220232. eCollection 2020.


(a) objective: This study aimed to identify trajectories of alcohol use (AU) and their associations with the development of alcohol use disorder (AUD) among young men with different weekly drinking patterns.

(b) method: A longitudinal latent class analysis integrating several aspects of AU, such as drinking quantity and frequency on weekends vs workweek days, involving 4719 young Swiss men at ages 20, 21, and 25, and collected by the Cohort Study on Substance Use Risk Factors, was used to identify different AU trajectories over time. The development of AUD scores in these trajectories was investigated using generalized linear mixed models.

(c) results: Six AU trajectory classes, similar to those described in the literature, were identified: 'abstainers-light drinkers', 'light workweek increasers', 'light decreasers', 'moderate weekend decreasers', 'moderate workweek increasers', and 'heavy drinkers'. Only 12% of participants were assigned to a trajectory class with decreasing AU associated with a decline in their AUD score. AUD scores increased in trajectory classes exhibiting increasing AU on workweek days, despite low and moderate general AU. Finally, more than 59% of participants were on an AU trajectory presenting no change in their mean AUD score over time.

(d) conclusions: Maturing out of problematic AU in emerging adulthood is not the norm in Switzerland, and the AUD score developed in late adolescence remains until at least emerging adulthood. AU on workweek days is a more practical marker of potentially problematic AU. This calls for timely interventions in adolescence and concerning regular drinking on workweek days in emerging adulthood.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Alcohol Drinking / physiopathology
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / epidemiology*
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / physiopathology
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology*
  • Alcoholism / physiopathology
  • Ethnicity
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Switzerland / epidemiology
  • Young Adult

Grant support

This research was supported by Swiss National Science Foundation grants 33CSC0-122679, 33CSC30-139467 and 33CSC30-148493 to GG.