Adolescent alcohol-use trajectories in the transition from high school Academic Article uri icon


  • A cohort of 3300 students from high schools across Victoria, Australia, were surveyed regarding their patterns of alcohol consumption from mid-1993 to 1995. The first wave of data was collected halfway through the students' final year of school (year 12). Students were then resurveyed 3 months following school completion and on two subsequent occasions, each separated by 6-month intervals. Analysis of the four waves of data indicated that five longitudinal patterns (trajectories) characterized temporal trends in male and female alcohol use through the transition from high school. Stable non-use trajectories were evident for 17% of males and 16% of females. Trajectories of less than weekly use characterized 45% of females and 46% of males, and showed little tendency to escalate toward harmful use. Among those using alcohol on a weekly or more frequent basis in high school, with few exceptions, use continued with at least the same frequency, but the quantity of alcohol consumed tended to escalate over time toward harmful levels. Overall, findings indicate that patterns of alcohol use tend to be stable over time, and more frequent alcohol use during the final year of high school tends to precede potentially harmful alcohol use following high school. Encouraging those high school students who consume alcohol once per week or more often to use alcohol on a less than weekly basis may be a valuable yet neglected harm minimization strategy.



publication date

  • January 1, 2003