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Teenage Binge Drinkers Risk Alcoholism and Social Exclusion as Adults

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Teenage binge drinkers are significantly more likely to become heavy drinkers as adults and find themselves with a string of criminal convictions, indicates a study carried out by researchers at the UCL Institute of Child Health (ICH).

Dr Russell Viner and Professor Brent Taylor (General and Adolescent Paediatric Unit) monitored the health and prospects of more than 11,000 UK children born in 1970 (The 1970 British Birth Cohort Study) at the ages of 16 and 30.They collected information on binge drinking during the preceding fortnight and habitual drinking during the previous year from the 16 year olds.Binge drinking was classified as two or more episodes in which four or more drinks had been consumed a row. Some 18% fell into this category of drinker – 20% of males and 16% of females. At the age of 30, participants were asked to reveal their levels of heavy drinking based on weekly consumption, illicit drug use, mental health problems, educational achievement and employment and personal history. By the age of 30, those who had been binge drinkers at the age of 16 were 60% more likely to be dependent on alcohol and 70% more likely to regularly drink heavily than those who had not been binge drinkers at the age of 16.But they were also more likely to have a host of other problems:

  • They were 40% more likely to use illegal drugs and to have mental health problems.
  • They were 60% more likely to have been homeless, and ran almost double the risk of criminal convictions.
  • They were 40% more likely to have had accidents.
  • And they were almost four times as likely to have been excluded from school and 30% more likely to have gained no qualifications.

After adjustment for other factors likely to influence the findings, the results remained largely unchanged.Those who had been habitual drinkers, at the age of 16, were more likely only to be problem drinkers and to use illegal drugs as adults, suggesting that binge drinking brings a distinct set of problems of its own, say the authors. (26% of the cohort were habitual drinkers at 16 – drinking more than 2-3 times per week; only 47% of habitual drinkers at 16 also binged)Efforts to curb rates of binge drinking should be set within the wider context of adolescent risk behaviour rather than just concentrating on alcohol use, access and availability, conclude the authors. (Source: Adult outcomes of binge drinking in adolescence: findings from a UK national birth cohort. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 2007 : Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children : November 2007)

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Posted On: 22 November, 2007
Modified On: 16 January, 2014


Created by: myVMC