Article Text

The persistence of adolescent binge drinking into adulthood: findings from a 15-year prospective cohort study
  1. Louisa Degenhardt1,2,
  2. Christina O'Loughlin3,
  3. Wendy Swift1,
  4. Helena Romaniuk3,4,5,
  5. John Carlin4,5,
  6. Carolyn Coffey3,
  7. Wayne Hall6,7,
  8. George Patton3,4
  1. 1National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of NSW, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  2. 2Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  3. 3Centre for Adolescent Health Murdoch Children's Research Institute, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  4. 4Department of Paediatrics, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  5. 5Clinical Epidemiology & Biostatistics Unit, Murdoch Children's Research Institute, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  6. 6University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research, University of Queensland, Australia
  7. 7National Addiction Centre Kings College, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Louisa Degenhardt; l.degenhardt{at}


Objectives To examine the prevalence of binge drinking in adolescence and its persistence into adulthood in an Australian cohort.

Design 15-year prospective cohort study.

Setting Victoria, Australia.

Participants 1943 adolescents were recruited from secondary schools at age 14–15 years.

Primary outcome measures Levels of past-week ‘binge’ drinking (5+ standard drinks on a day, each 10 g alcohol) and ‘heavy binge’ drinking (20+ standard drinks on a day for males, 11+ for females) were assessed during six adolescent waves, and across three adult waves up to age 29 years.

Results Half of the males (52%) and a third of the females (34%) reported past-week adolescent binge drinking. 90% of male and 70% of female adolescent-onset binge drinkers continued to binge in young adulthood; 70% of males and 48% of females who were not adolescent-onset binge drinkers reported young adult binge drinking. Past-week heavy bingeing was less common in adolescence than adulthood. Overall, 35% of the sample (95% CI 33% to 38%) reported past-week binge drinking in adolescence and young adulthood and one-third (33%; 30% to 35%) first reported binge drinking in young adulthood; only 7% of the sample (6–8%) had binge drinking in adolescence but not young adulthood. ‘Heavy binge’ drinking occurred in adolescence and young adulthood for 9% (8% to 10%); 8% (7% to 10%) reported it in adolescence but no longer in young adulthood; and 24% (22% to 26%) began ‘heavy binge’ drinking in young adulthood. Among adolescent binge drinkers (n=821), young adult binge and heavy binge drinking were predicted by being male, adolescent antisocial behaviour and adverse consequences of drinking in adolescence.

Conclusions Binge alcohol use is common and persistent among young Australians. Efforts to prevent the onset of binge drinking during adolescence may substantially reduce harmful patterns of alcohol use in young adulthood.

  • Public Health
  • Epidemiology

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