The 130th Annual Meeting of APHA

5079.0: Wednesday, November 13, 2002 - 12:48 PM

Abstract #38578

Age of first drunkenness and unplanned and unprotected sex because of drinking among American college students

Ralph W. Hingson, ScD, MPH, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Boston University School of Public Health, 715 Albany Street, Talbot 2W, Boston, MA 02118, 617 638-5160,, Timothy Heeren, PhD, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Boston University School of Public Health, 715 Albany Street, TE330, Boston, MA 02118, Michael Winter, MPH, Data Coordinating Center, Boston University School of Public Health, 715 Albany Street, Talbot E4, Boston, MA 02118, and Henry Wechsler, PhD, Department of Health and Social Behavior, Harvard School of Public Health, 677 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115.

Objectives: Early age of drinking onset has been associated with an increased likelihood of experiencing alcohol dependence, motor vehicle crashes, physical fights and unintentional injuries after drinking. This study explores whether starting to drink to intoxication at a younger age is associated with a greater likelihood of college students having unplanned or unprotected sexual intercourse because of their drinking.

Methods: In 1999 11,739 full-time four-year college students from 128 randomly selected U.S. colleges and universities completed a self-administered survey that asked them about their drinking practices and whether their drinking had caused them since the beginning of the school year to: 1) engage in unplanned sexual intercourse; 2) not use protection when having sex.

Results: Among college students who drink, those first drunk prior to age 13 compared to those never drunk until age 19 or older had 2.0 times greater odds of having unplanned sex and a 2.2 times greater odds of having unprotected sex because of drinking, even after controlling for age, race/ethnicity, marital status, parental drinking history, and age of first smoking and marijuana use. After further controlling for history of alcohol dependence and frequency of heavy drinking those first drunk prior to age 13 had a 1.5 times greater odds of unplanned sex and a 1.7 times greater odds of unprotected sex because of drinking.

Conclusions: Clinical, educational, legal, and community interventions to delay onset of drinking to intoxication need to be coupled with efforts to prevent unplanned and unprotected sexual intercourse among U.S. college students.

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Alcohol Use, Sexual Risk Behavior

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

Risky Business: Alcohol, Sex, Cars, and Death

The 130th Annual Meeting of APHA