Adult consequences of late adolescent alcohol consumption: a systematic review of cohort studies.


Alcohol is responsible for a significant portion of the global burden of disease. There is widespread concern reported in the media and other sources about drinking trends among young people, particularly heavy episodic or “binge” drinking. Prominent among policy responses, in the UK and elsewhere, have been attempts to manage antisocial behaviour related to intoxication in public spaces. Much less attention has been given to the longer term effects of excessive drinking in adolescence on later adult health and well-being. Some studies suggest that individuals “mature out” of late adolescent drinking behaviour, whilst others identify enduring effects on drinking and broader health and social outcomes in adulthood. If adolescent drinking does not cause later difficulties in adulthood then intervention approaches aimed at addressing the acute consequences of alcohol, such as unintentional injuries and anti-social behaviour, may be the most appropriate solution. If causal relationships do exist, however, this approach will not address the cumulative harms produced by alcohol, unless such intervention successfully modifies the long-term relationship with alcohol, which seems unlikely. To address this issue a systematic review of cohort studies was conducted, as this approach provides the strongest observational study design to evaluate evidence for causal inference.

This resource was contributed by The National Documentation Centre on Drug Use.

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