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Pediatrics. 2003 Jan;111(1):34-41.

Early age of first drunkenness as a factor in college students' unplanned and unprotected sex attributable to drinking.

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Boston University School of Public Health Social and Behavioral Sciences Department, Boston, Massachusetts 02118, USA.



Early age of drinking onset has been associated with a greater likelihood among adults of experiencing alcohol dependence, frequent heavy drinking even among nondependent drinkers, and an increased risk of motor vehicle crashes, unintentional injuries, and physical fights after drinking. This study explores whether first getting drunk at a younger age is associated with a greater likelihood of college students reporting that they had unplanned or unprotected sexual intercourse because of their drinking.


In 1999 11 739 full-time 4-year college students from 128 randomly selected US colleges and universities completed a self-administered survey that asked them about their drinking practices and whether their drinking had caused them, since the beginning of the school year, to: 1) engage in unplanned sexual intercourse or 2) not use protection when having sex.


Among college students who drink, those first drunk before age 13 compared with those never drank until age 19 or older had a 2.0 times greater odds of having unplanned sex and a 2.2 times greater odds of having unprotected sex reportedly because of drinking, even after controlling for age, race/ethnicity, marital status, parental drinking history, age of first smoking, and marijuana use. After further controlling for history of alcohol dependence and frequency of heavy drinking those first drunk before age 13 had a 1.5 times greater odds of unplanned sex and a 1.7 times greater odds of unprotected sex reportedly because of drinking.


Clinical, educational, legal, and community interventions to delay age of first getting drunk need to be coupled with efforts to prevent unplanned and unprotected sexual intercourse among US college students.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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