While overall rates of alcohol use among US high school students have decreased over recent decades, rates of heavy episodic drinking remain high. This study examined the association between high school heavy episodic drinking* and health risks in young adulthood using data from a nationally representative longitudinal study of tenth graders (N=2785), which followed them for 7 years.
- Heavy episodic drinking in high school was associated with the following outcomes at the first follow-up in young adulthood (4 years post-baseline):
- Driving while impaired (DWI; adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 5.7).
- Riding with an impaired driver (aOR, 4.2).
- Drinking to black-out (aOR, 2.7).
- Risky driving (aOR, 1.9).**
- Parental monitoring and support for not using alcohol provided some protection against DWI, riding with an impaired driver, and black-out.
* Defined as consuming 5–9 standard drinks in a day for males; 4–7 for females.
** Measured via 21 questions from the validated Checkpoints Risky Driving Scale.
Comments: The typical trajectory of alcohol use during the high school years is one of increasing frequency and intensity, and teens who report heavy drinking in high school report riskier alcohol use as young adults, compared with peers who do not. Parenting skills may help to “bend the trajectory” of alcohol use among high school students and prevent risky behavior into adulthood.
Sharon Levy, MD, MPH
Reference: Vaca FE, Li K, Luk JW, et al. Longitudinal associations of 12th-grade binge drinking with risky driving and high-risk drinking. Pediatrics. 2020;145(2).