Irish Examiner – Older teenagers warned over alcohol

Higher alcohol consumption in late adolescence often continues into adulthood and is associated with long-term alcohol problems including dependence, a new study has suggested.

The findings published in the Public Library of Science journal concluded there was “consistent evidence” greater alcohol intake by those in their late teens tipped into adult life and was linked with other problems.

A team of academics undertook a review of 54 existing relevant studies, measuring the effects of alcohol on events in adulthood such as death, alcohol dependence, criminal offences, mental health, educational attainment and smoking.

The studies, half of which were undertaken in the US, analysed drinking among 15 to 19-year-olds and the subsequent outcomes from the age of 20.

It was carried out by Jim McCambridge of the Department of Public Health and Policy at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine alongside two colleagues.

The authors said: “Late adolescent alcohol consumption appears a probable cause of increased drinking well into adulthood, through to ages at which adult social roles have been achieved.”

They pointed out that although a number of studies suggested links to adult physical and mental health and social consequences, existing evidence was “of insufficient quality” to warrant casual inferences.

But added: “Late adolescent drinking, by virtue of its probable effect on long-term adult alcohol consumption, is likely to contribute to the burden of alcohol-related disease.”

The team concluded that reducing drinking during late adolescence was likely to be important for “preventing long-term adverse consequences as well as protecting against more immediate harms”.

The study was funded by the Alcohol Education and Research Council.

Source: The Irish Examiner, 09/02/11