Survey of Marine Corps military recruits reveals risk factors for alcohol disorders in young adults

Young men age 18 to 20 are significantly more likely to be risky drinkers if they start drinking alcohol at a young age, according to a large survey of male Marine Corps recruits, the results of which are published in the December issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals. Other risk factors for drinking problems include tobacco use, having a small or rural hometown and growing up in a household with alcohol abuse.

In 2004, about 2.3 percent of all 12-year-olds and 69.8 percent of all 21-year-olds reported that they currently drank alcohol, according to background information in the article. Approximately 4.4 million Americans used alcohol for the first time in 2004; 86.9 percent of them were younger than 21. A previous study found that male Marines age 18 to 25 drink heavily at twice the rate of civilians in the same age group (38.6 percent vs. 17.8 percent).

Sylvia Y. N. Young, M.D., M.P.H., of the Naval Health Research Center, San Diego, Calif., and colleagues studied the association between childhood experiences and risky underage drinking in 41,482 male Marine recruits age 18 to 20. All the men completed the Recruit Assessment Program questionnaire between June 2002 and April 2006, on which they provided demographic and other personal information and answered three questions designed to detect risky drinking. The questionnaire also included items to gauge a variety of adverse childhood experiences, including physical neglect, emotional and sexual abuse or domestic violence.

A total of 6,128 recruits (14.8 percent) were identified as risky drinkers, 18,693 (45.1 percent) as non-risky drinkers and 16,661 (40.2 percent) as non-drinkers. Among drinkers, age at first drink was most strongly associated with risky drinkingthose who began drinking at age 13 or younger were 5.5 times as likely to be identified as risky drinkers. Risky drinkers were more likely than either non-risky drin

Contact: Karl F. Van Orden
JAMA and Archives Journals

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