Heavy episodic drinking in early adulthood and outcomes in midlife.

Journal Article (Journal Article)


This study assessed to what extent drinking patterns of young adults persist into midlife and whether frequent heavy episodic drinking as a young adult is associated with educational attainment, labor market, and health outcomes at midlife.


Using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979, we grouped individuals into three baseline drinking categories using data on the number of occasions they consumed six or more drinks on one occasion from the 1982-1984 surveys. Categories were frequent heavy episodic drinker, occasional heavy episodic drinker, and other drinker/abstainer. We used propensity score matching to compare baseline drinking groups on midlife alcohol consumption, educational attainment, and labor market and health outcomes.


Frequent heavy episodic drinkers substantially reduced alcohol consumption between baseline and follow-up 25 years later. However, they were much more likely to abuse alcohol and be alcohol dependent in 1994 and be heavy episodic drinkers at the 25-year follow-up compared with the other drinking groups. After matching, there was little indication that being in a higher consumption baseline alcohol group was adversely associated with years of schooling completed by middle age, the probability of being employed, earnings conditional on being employed in midlife, and health problems in midlife. Results on the probability of surviving to follow-up were mixed.


Frequent heavy episodic drinking at ages 17-25 years was associated with higher rates of alcohol dependence and abuse at a 10-year follow-up and alcohol consumption 25 years following baseline but not with other study outcomes at midlife. Lack of differences in outcomes at midlife may be because of decreased heavy episodic drinking among the heaviest baseline drinkers.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Sloan, F; Grossman, D; Platt, A

Published Date

  • May 2011

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 72 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 459 - 470

PubMed ID

  • 21513683

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC3084361

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1938-4114

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1937-1888

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.15288/jsad.2011.72.459


  • eng