Teen alcohol habits impact future death risk

03 Nov 2020
The earlier young people start drinking, the easier it is for them to drink more later in life and get addicted.

Alcohol intoxication and high tolerance during adolescence are strong predictors of mortality at age 33 years, a recent study has found.

The findings suggest that “systematic implementation of screening and brief interventions, together with regulatory policies and multifaceted developmental interventions, need to be implemented to reduce the harm consequent on adolescent alcohol use,” the researchers said.

Looking at a sample of 6,615 adolescents (aged 15–16 years; 49.3 percent male), the researchers saw that while a sizeable proportion reported no alcohol tolerance or intoxication (32.0 percent), more had intermediate tolerance (37.9 percent), which meant needing 5–8 drinks for males, and 4–6 drinks for females, before feeling intoxicated.

High alcohol tolerance, defined as needing ≥9 drinks for males and ≥7 drinks for females before intoxication, was reported by 11.5 percent of the total study sample. On the other hand, almost 60 percent said that they had not gotten drunk in the last 30 days, while 30.5 percent did so 1–2 times.

By age 33 years, 53 of the participants had died, yielding a mortality rate of 0.8 percent. Suicide was the most common cause, accounting for 43.4 percent of deaths, followed by accidents (37.7 percent).

Unadjusted analyses found that the male sex, daily smoking, and psychiatric and substance use disorders were among the significant risk factors for death at 33 years. The same was true for several measures of alcohol use, such as high tolerance and a high frequency of intoxication in the last 30 days.

Cox regression analysis adjusted for confounders confirmed that high alcohol tolerance was a significant risk factor for all-cause mortality (hazard ratio [HR], 3.082, 95 percent confidence interval [CI], 1.177–8.072; p=0.022) and deaths due to accidents and suicides (HR, 3.810, 95 percent CI, 1.201–12.083; p=0.023).

The same was true for a high frequency of alcohol intoxication (HR, 3.015, 95 percent CI, 1.206–7.540; p=0.018 and HR, 3.846, 95 percent CI, 1.409–10.499; p=0.009, respectively).

Editor's Recommendations