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Examining adolescent alcohol use consumption

Alcohol consumption may not be uncommon in adolescents, but it can have an impact on later harms. A new report looks at the trajectories of alcohol consumption.

In spite of laws, consumption of alcohol is not uncommon among teenagers and there are a variety of patterns for that consumption. This adolescent consumption may be an important predictor for harms later in life, which includes alcohol use disorder. A report in Pediatrics looks at the various trajectories for adolescent alcohol consumption.1

The researchers used survey data from a longitudinal cohort of teenagers who lived in Australia. This data were used to model latent class alcohol use trajectories over the course of 5 annual follow-ups. Regression models were used to find out whether trajectories predicted self-reported symptoms of alcohol use disorder at the time of the final follow-up and to establish whether child, parent, and peer factors at baseline predicted trajectory membership.

Investigators described 4 classes of drinking, which included abstaining (n = 352); late-onset moderate drinking (n = 503); early-onset moderate drinking (n = 663); and early-onset heavy drinking (n = 295). They found that when adolescents had more alcohol-specific rules in their home that there was a reduced risk of early-onset heavy drinking when compared with late-onset moderate drinking. However, teenagers who had more peers that used substances were at an increased risk (relative risk ratio: 3.43; 99.5% CI: 2.10–5.62). Additionally, teenagers who had early-onset heavy drinking were found to have increased odds of meeting the criteria for alcohol use disorder when in early adulthood (odds ratio: 7.68; 99.5% CI: 2.41–24.47).

The researchers concluded that both parenting and peer influences in the early part of adolescence could help reduce the risk of alcohol-related harm later in life. Both early initiation of alcohol consumption as well as heavy alcohol consumption during adolescence are linked to an increased risk of alcohol-related harm when compared to the recommended maximum levels of consumption, which includes late-onset and moderate drinking.


1. Yuen W, Chan G, Bruno R, et al. Adolescent alcohol use trajectories: risk factors and adult outcomes. Pediatrics. September 24, 2020. Epub ahead of print. doi:10.1542/peds.2020-0440