Decline in Age of Drinking Onset in Ireland, Gender and Per Capita Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol and Alcoholism
Aims: We sought to examine the fall in age of first drinking in Ireland and to determine whether there were gender differences. We also aimed to determine whether there was a relationship between the per capita alcohol consumption evident when people entered later adolescence and their age of drinking onset. Methods: Information on age of first drinking was based on retrospective recall of 9832 interviewees from the pooled samples obtained from two population surveys. We examined the change in
... ge of first drinking, by birth cohort and by gender, utilizing survival analysis. We utilized Pearson's correlation to explore the relationship between median age of first drinking within each birth cohort and the mean per capita alcohol consumption when that birth cohort was aged 16 years. Results: The average age of first drinking fell steadily and significantly across birth cohorts from the late 1930s to the early 1990s. This change was significantly greater in females. Per capita alcohol consumption was very highly negatively correlated with the median age at which each birth cohort commenced drinking (r = −0.96, P < 0.001). Conclusion: The prevailing level of drinking in society at the point when young people enter later adolescence is very closely associated with the age at which they commence drinking. Per capita consumption may be contributing to the changes in age of onset of drinking and/or both may share a similar set of determinants. In light of this apparent relationship, it is possible that efforts to reduce per capita alcohol consumption may also reduce underage drinking.