Does the Social Context of Early Alcohol Use Affect Alcohol-Related Harms in Adulthood? Findings from a National Birth Cohort

Internationally, laws on the provision of alcohol commonly exempt that provided by parents and/or consumed in private premises. Whether these exemptions mitigate alcohol-related harms, as has been posited, is unclear. We used data from 10,968 individuals (5216 women) from the 1970 British Birth Cohort Study. Exposures, self-reported at 16-years of age, were consumption of alcohol with specific people (including parents, siblings and friends) and acquisition from different places (including their own home). The outcome, self-reported at 30-years of age, were high alcohol consumption (>14 units of alcohol in the last week), and screening positive for a possible alcohol problem using the cutting down, being annoyed by criticism, feeling guilty, and eye-openers (CAGE) questionnaire. At 30-years of age, 32.1% of study members consumed >14 units in the last week and 14.3% screened positive on the CAGE questionnaire. Neither consuming alcohol with parents nor the acquisition of alcohol from home was associated with later high consumption or alcohol problems. There was a suggestion, however, that drinking with other teenagers was related to an increased risk of both outcomes (consumption: 1.32 (1.16, 1.51); alcohol problems: 1.27 (1.01, 1.58), as was acquisition from an off-license (consumption: 1.23 (0.99, 1.51); alcohol problems: 1.49 (1.17, 1.90). This study strengthens the evidence that alcohol consumption with parents, or acquisition from home, does not protect against later alcohol-related harms.