Youngest Drinkers Likelier To Use Alcohol For
Stress Relief As Adults
January 5, 2007
The younger someone starts drinking alcoholic beverages, the more likely he or
she is to reach for a drink to relieve stress when older, a large new study
The steeper slope of "stress-reactive drinking among persons who started
drinking at 14 or younger is of particular concern because their base levels of
drinking are already higher than those of other drinkers," even when not
experiencing stress, according to lead study author Deborah Dawson, Ph.D., of
the National Institutes of Health.
The study, based on data collected in a 2001-2002 survey of nearly 27,000
past-year drinkers, appears in the January issue of the journal Alcoholism:
Clinical and Experimental Research.
Respondents were asked whether they had experienced 12 different types of
stressful events in the previous year, such as death of a family member or close
friend, unemployment for more than a month, financial crises, legal problems or
disruption of a marriage or romantic relationship.
Average daily consumption of alcohol increased by 19 percent with each
additional stressful event experienced among those who started drinking at 14 or
younger compared with 3 percent among those who took their first drink at 18 or
After adjusting for other factors that might be related to the amount of alcohol
consumed, the researchers said "the association between stress and volume
of consumption was significant only for early initiators."
The findings "provide one key to understanding why these early initiators
are at greatly increased risk of developing alcohol use disorders,"
according to the authors, who say the results suggest that young teens
"would benefit from prevention efforts that include stress-reduction
techniques that could serve as an alternative to drinking."
But there is no simple way to prevent children and adolescents from drinking,
said Jack Henningfield, Ph.D., vice president for research and health policy at
Pinney Associates in Bethesda, Md.
"As we have learned from tobacco and other drug use prevention, it is a
mistake to wait until the average age of onset use and problems,"
Henningfield said. "Prevention must start in the formative years of primary
school or earlier."
Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Dawson DA, Grant BF, Li T-K. "The impact of age at first drink on
stress-reactive drinking." Alcohol Clin Exp Res 31(1), 2007.
Health Behavior News Service
Center for the Advancement of Health 2000 Florida Ave. NW, Ste 210
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