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Int J Drug Policy. 2019 Dec;74:18-25. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2019.06.011. Epub 2019 Aug 10.

Trajectories of alcohol use problems based on early adolescent alcohol use: Findings from a 35 year population cohort.

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Christchurch Health and Development Study, Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Otago, Christchurch, New Zealand.
Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Otago, 23 Mein Street, Newton, Wellington, New Zealand. Electronic address:
Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Otago, Christchurch, New Zealand.
Health Promotion Agency, Wellington, New Zealand.



Early exposure to alcohol in adolescence is associated with a range of long term harms. Better understanding of trajectories of alcohol use from adolescence to early adulthood would help target prevention strategies to high risk groups.


Christchurch (New Zealand) general population birth cohort (n = 1265). A latent trajectory model of drinking behaviour at age 14-16 was used to predict drinking outcomes at age 18-35, net of covariate factors known to be associated with substance use outcomes in this cohort.


Three classes of adolescent alcohol use were identified. These were: occasional drinkers, emergent binge drinkers and increasing heavy drinkers.


This analysis identifies three groups of adolescent alcohol users with differing patterns of use. Emergent binge drinkers likely require public policy responses to alcohol use whereas increasing heavy drinkers are potentially able to be identified individually on the basis of patterns of alcohol use and social variables. This group may benefit from psychosocial interventions and are unlikely to respond to a broad public health approach.


Alcohol use; Alcohol use disorder; Epidemiology; General population cohort; Trajectory of alcohol use

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