Is Age at First Alcohol Intoxication Associated With Mortality in Adulthood?

Among young adults, a significant portion of alcohol-related mortality comes from heavy alcohol consumption, which can lead to an increased risk of intentional and unintentional injuries. Early age at first drink or first intoxication may be associated with increased mortality, even in the absence of an alcohol use disorder. This study used data from the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1986 Study to examine the association between age at onset of drinking and age at first alcohol intoxication and the risk of death by the age of 30.

  • By the age of 30, 47 of the 6564 participants had died (0.7%); males represented 81% of deaths.
  • The most common causes of death were suicide (47%) and accidents (32%).
  • There was no association between age at first drink and mortality at age 30.
  • In analyses adjusted for confounders, age of ≤14 years at first intoxication was associated with all-cause mortality (hazard ratio [HR], 2.33) and death by suicide or accident (HR, 2.99).

Comments: This study shows that first intoxication at an early age is associated with negative consequences later in life. These results support preventive interventions targeting alcohol intoxication in adolescents.

Nicolas Bertholet, MD, MSc

Reference: Levola J, Rose RJ, Mustonen A, et al. Association of age at first drink and first alcohol intoxication as predictors of mortality: a birth cohort study. Eur J Public Health. 2020;30(6):1189–1193.

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