Research Project

Alcohol Abuse and Dependence: Does Age When Started Drinking Matter?

This page shows the progress of my research project for the Data Management and Visualization course on Coursera.

Data set

For the research project, I have chosen The U.S. National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) 2001–2002 wave 1 data (n = 43, 093): NESARC is a survey designed to determine the magnitude of alcohol use and psychiatric disorders in the U.S. population. It is a representative sample of the non-institutionalized population 18 years and older.

After looking through the codebook for the NESARC study, I have decided to study the association between the age when started drinking and alcohol abuse and/or dependence. Also I would like to further investigate if there are male-female differences in the correlation between the age when started drinking and alcohol abuse and/or dependence.

Thus, I added to my code book below the variables that are relevant to my research topics – ALCOHOL ABUSE/DEPENDENCE IN LAST 12 MONTHS (ALCABDEP12DX), AGE WHEN STARTED DRINKING, NOT COUNTING SMALL TASTES OR SIPS (S2AQ16A), and SEX (SEX), along with the unique ID number (IDNUM) variable.

 

Code Book

 

My research questions and hypotheses are as follows:

Research Question I

“Is the age when started drinking associated with alcohol abuse and/or dependence?”

Hypothesis

Ho (Null Hypothesis): The age when started drinking (S2AQ19 variable) is NOT associated with alcohol abuse/dependence (ALCABDEP12DX variable).

Ha (Alternative Hypothesis): The age when started drinking (S2AQ19 variable) IS associated with alcohol abuse/dependence (ALCABDEP12DX variable).

 

Research Question II

“Are there male-female differences in the correlation between the age when started drinking and alcohol abuse and/or dependence?” Or, “Is SEX a confounding variable to alcohol abuse and/or dependence?”

Hypothesis

Ho (Null Hypothesis): Gender (SEX variable) is NOT a statistically significant confounding variable to alcohol abuse/dependence (ALCABDEP12DX variable).

Ha (Alternative Hypothesis): Gender (SEX variable) IS a statistically significant confounding variable to alcohol abuse/dependence (ALCABDEP12DX variable).

 

Literature review

I performed a literature review, using Google Scholar (http://scholar.google.com), to see what research has been previously done on my chosen research topic. The search term used was “association between the age when started drinking and alcohol abuse and dependence.” The summary of my literature review for the project is as follows:

The age when started drinking (corresponding to the S2AQ16A variable in the current research project) has been considered by many researchers as a potentially powerful predictor of progression to alcohol-related harm such as alcohol abuse and dependence (corresponding to the ALCABDEP12DX variable in the current research project). The study results on this topic can raise important policy implications for the development of alcohol-abuse prevention programs for youth. As such, there have been numerous studies on the association between the age at first alcohol use and alcohol abuse and/or dependence (DeWit, et al, 2000; Grant et al, 1997, 2001, 2004; Hingson et al, 2006, 2009). Grant et al (1997), for example, investigated the relationship between age at first use of alcohol and the prevalence of lifetime alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence, among all U.S. adults 18 years of age and over and within subgroups defined by sex and race, using the data from 27,616 current and former drinkers interviewed in the 1992 National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic survey. The study indicated that individuals who started drinking at ages 14 or younger became alcohol dependent, four times the rate (10%) observed for those who started reported drinking at ages 20 and older. In Canada, DeWit, et al (2000) investigated the influence of early alcohol use as a risk factor for progression to the development of alcohol disorders, i.e., alcohol disorders as a function of age at first alcohol use. According to their survival analyses of data from a community sample (N=5,856) of lifetime drinkers participating in the 1990–1991 Mental Health Supplement of the Ontario Health Survey, rates for subjects who began to drink at ages 13 and 14 were 13.7% and 9.0%, respectively. In contrast, rates for those who started drinking at ages 19 and older were 2.0% and 1.0%. That is, first use of alcohol at ages 11–14 greatly heightens the risk of progression to the development of alcohol disorders, which is consistent with the study results by Grant et al (1997).

On the other hand, male-female differences in alcohol consumption and alcohol use disorders have been decreased over time, according to Keyes et al (2008). Yet, alcohol abuse and dependence were consistently more common among males (Grant et al, 1997; 2001; 2004). The contribution of age at onset of alcohol use to the odds of lifetime alcohol abuse and/or dependence varied only a little between sex subgroups, according to Grant et al (1997). The odds of lifetime alcohol dependence were reduced 14.7% and 13.2% for males and females (corresponding to the SEX variable in the current research project), respectively, with each increasing year of age at onset of alcohol use. The odds of lifetime abuse were reduced 7.0% and 9.1% for males and females, respectively.

Based on the literature review, I expect to see negative correlations between AGE WHEN STARTED DRINKING (S2AQ16A variable) and ALCOHOL ABUSE/DEPENDENCE (ALCABDEP12DX variable) from the analysis of the given NESARC data. That is, the likelihood of the development of alcohol abuse and/or dependence increases as the age when started drinking decreases. When it comes to the relation between SEX (SEX variable) and ALCOHOL ABUSE/DEPENDENCE (ALCABDEP12DX variable), I expect to see a slightly positive correlation to males (or negative correlation to females).

 

Reference:

DeWit, D. J., Adlaf, E. M., Offord, D. R., & Ogborne, A. C. (2000). Age at first alcohol use: a risk factor for the development of alcohol disorders. American Journal of Psychiatry, 157(5), 745-750.

Grant, B. F., & Dawson, D. A. (1997). Age at onset of alcohol use and its association with DSM-IV alcohol abuse and dependence: results from the National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey. Journal of substance abuse, 9, 103-110.

Grant, B. F., Stinson, F. S., & Harford, T. C. (2001). Age at onset of alcohol use and DSM-IV alcohol abuse and dependence: a 12-year follow-up. Journal of substance abuse, 13(4), 493-504.

Grant, B. F., Dawson, D. A., Stinson, F. S., Chou, S. P., Dufour, M. C., & Pickering, R. P. (2004). The 12-month prevalence and trends in DSM-IV alcohol abuse and dependence: United States, 1991–1992 and 2001–2002. Drug and alcohol dependence, 74(3), 223-234.

Hingson, R.W., Heeren, T., & Winter, M.R. (2006). Age at Drinking Onset and Alcohol Dependence: Age at Onset, Duration, and Severity. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med., 160(7):739-746. doi:10.1001/archpedi.160.7.739.

Hingson, R. W., & Zha, W. (2009). Age of drinking onset, alcohol use disorders, frequent heavy drinking, and unintentionally injuring oneself and others after drinking. Pediatrics, 123(6), 1477-1484.

Keyes, K. M., Grant, B. F., & Hasin, D. S. (2008). Evidence for a closing gender gap in alcohol use, abuse, and dependence in the United States population. Drug and alcohol dependence, 93(1), 21-29.