Monday, December 4, 2006

Going To College Leads to Risky Drinking for Marines

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. Also going to college and having friends and family support!!

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 drinking—those 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 drinkers or non-drinkers to be smokers, from a rural or small hometown, have experienced childhood sexual or emotional abuse, and to have a household member who had a drinking problem or mental illness. They also were more likely to report education beyond a high-school level, having more close family members or friends for personal support, and being motivated to join the military for travel, adventure or to leave problems at home.

"Factors inversely associated with risky drinking were being married, attending religious services weekly or more often, neither parent having completed high school, not knowing parental educational achievement and motivation to join the military ‘to serve my country,' for education and new job skills, or for a 20-year military career. A history of emotional neglect was also inversely associated," the authors write.

"Our findings underscore the need for programs and policies to reduce underage drinking, such as the minimum legal drinking age of 21 years," they conclude. "Our study results also reinforce the need for public health efforts to prevent tobacco use and child abuse. After early age at first alcohol use, the factor most strongly associated with risky drinking was tobacco use. Whether reducing smoking will reduce risky drinking among youth is an important but unexplored question."

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