Age at First Intoxication More Important than Age at First Drink

Early age of first drink (early onset of drinking) has been reported to be associated with subsequent drinking problems. However, it is unclear why they might be connected.

To investigate this question, researchers examined the link between age at dirst drink and behaviors such as low academic performance, engaging in physical fights, incidence of injury, marijuana use, and smoking tobacco among 15 year old adolescents who did subsequently become intoxicated. Among those who experienced drunkenness, the researchers looked at whether age of drinking onset was associated with the five problem behaviors independently of age of first intoxication.

The analysis was based on a sample of 44,801 15-year-olds from 38 countries in North Ameria and Europe who were included in the Health Behavior of School-age Children cross-national study.

A significant association was found between age at time of first drink and problem behaviors. However, the association was only found among those who had experienced intoxication. It was not found among those who had never been drunk.

The authors concluded that age of first drink is not a risk factor for problem behaviors at age 15, but that early age of intoxication is a risk factor. They found no relationship between age at first drink and age at first intoxication.

This website makes no suggestions or recommendations about alcohol or any other matter and none should be inferred.


  • Kuntsche,E., et al. Not early drinking but early drunkenness is a risk factor for problem behaviours among adoescents from 38 European and North American countries. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 2013, 37(2), 308-314.

This website is informational only. It makes no suggestions or recommendations about any subject.
For more fine print, read the disclaimer.