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Hazardous alcohol use by young adults goes far beyond college campuses

Despite recent media attention given to drinking among the college crowd, at-risk alcohol use is neither unique to, nor necessarily the highest among, individuals who complete college, according to a new study. Results are published in the December issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

"Alcohol use can begin as early as childhood, but typically begins during the teen years, and increases steadily from adolescence into young adulthood, where it reaches its highest lifetime level," said C. Raymond Bingham, a research associate professor in the division of social and behavioral analysis, Transportation Research Institute, and in the department of psychiatry, School of Medicine, at the University of Michigan.

"Although college is typically known for frequent partying and alcohol consumption, individuals who do not attend college also on average experience their highest lifetime levels of alcohol consumption when they are young adults," said Bingham, also the first author of the study. "Contributing factors likely include increased numbers of peers who have legal access to alcohol, reaching age 21 and being able to legally purchase alcohol for one's self, increased autonomy and individuation from parents, a process of exploration and experimentation that is typical of late adolescent and early young adult psychosocial development, and the lack of adult roles and responsibilities such as marriage and parenting that might moderate alcohol use."

It would be incorrect, therefore, to assume that non-college-attending young adults are at a lower alcohol-related risk than college undergraduates, he added.

To further explore patterns of alcohol use during early adulthood, Bingham and his colleagues accessed data gathered in a larger prevention study in which participants (n=1,987) were originally recruited in the fifth or sixth grade. Participants were asked about their alcohol use by survey in the 12th grade and ag
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