Alcohol use increased across a generation of mothers, daughters

Alati R. JAMA Psychiatry. 2014;doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.513.

  • June 26, 2014

In the past 3 decades, alcohol use has increased among young women in Australia, according to recent study findings published in JAMA Psychiatry.

Kim S. Betts, MPH, of the School of Population Health at the University of Queensland, and colleagues evaluated 1,053 mothers and daughters to determine their drinking habits. Mothers were evaluated when pregnant and aged 18 to 25 years, and daughters were assessed 21 years later. Four levels of alcohol use were measured: no alcohol per month; six or fewer glasses per month; seven to 30 glasses per month; and more than 30 glasses per month.

Overall, daughters were three times more likely to drink at the highest level compared with mothers who were two times more likely to consume no alcohol.

Mothers were more likely to have a dependent child (47%) compared with daughters (16%), and they were more likely to have a partner (88% vs. 30%).

Daughters were more likely to consume alcohol at the high (OR=5.68; 95% CI, 4.24-7.57) and moderate (OR=2.81; 95% CI, 2.18-3.63) levels compared with mothers.

Alcohol use increased when there was no dependent child among both mothers and daughters. Mothers without a partner were five times more likely to drink at the highest level compared with mothers with a partner (OR=5.65; 95% CI, 2.99-12.34). Similarly, daughters without a partner were more likely to consume the highest level of alcohol compared with daughters with a partner (OR=0.51; 95% CI, 0.31-0.8).

“In summary, this study provides strong evidence for a large increase in young female drinking during recent decades, as reflected in the drinking of mothers and their female offspring in their early 20s,” the researchers wrote. “International research is urgently needed to confirm what we suspect is a trend, which may have been underestimated in many Western countries. It may be time for more aggressive anti-alcohol programs aimed at young women.”

Disclosure: The study was funded in part by the National Health and Medical Research Council. Two researchers report financial ties with the National Health and Medical Research Council.

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