June 4, 2008 -- Women born after 1944 began drinking alcohol at younger ages than their elders, and that appears to have put them at greater risk for alcoholism, according to researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
On average, women born before 1944 began drinking at age 20. Those born after that started drinking alcohol at age 17, and they had a 50 to 80 percent greater risk for alcohol dependence, the researchers found.
"We had previously noted that women were catching up with men in their rates of drinking and alcohol dependence, and this earlier age at which they began drinking helps explain that finding," says Richard A. Grucza, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and first author on the study. "An early age at the onset of drinking is a strong predictor of subsequent alcohol dependence. About one in three individuals who start drinking at age 17 or younger become alcohol dependent. For those who wait until age 21 or older, that number is one in ten."
In April, Grucza's team reported that women are catching up with men in alcohol use and dependence. They found substantial increases in drinking and alcohol dependence among women born between 1944 and 1983, compared to those born between 1934 and 1943. The new research, published in the August issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research and currently available at OnlineEarly, focuses on the ages at which men and women began to drink.
The researchers compared data from two surveys of alcohol use: the National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey, gathered in 1991 and 1992, and from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, which was compiled 10 years later.
"In our previous work, we found that women born after 1944 had a substantially higher risk for alcohol dependence compared to those born prior to that," Grucza says. "Now we have found that women born during this 'high risk' period also began drinking earl
|Contact: Jim Dryden|
Washington University in St. Louis