UMMS Affiliation

Department of Population and Quantitative Health Sciences, Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine

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Behavioral Medicine | Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Epidemiology | Preventive Medicine | Psychiatry and Psychology | Substance Abuse and Addiction


OBJECTIVES: We compared discrete time measures with trajectories of adolescent drinking frequency as predictors of sustained binge drinking in young adulthood.

DESIGN: Prospective longitudinal study.

SETTING: 10 high schools in Montreal, Canada.

PARTICIPANTS: 1293 high-school students followed from mean (SD) age 12 (0.6) to 24 (0.7) years.

PRIMARY OUTCOME MEASURES: Patterns of drinking frequency (self-reports every 3 months from ages 12 to 17) identified using group-based trajectory modelling. Sustained binge drinking was defined as binging monthly or more often at both ages 20 and 24.

ANALYSES: Using logistic regression, sustained binge drinking was regressed on trajectory group membership and on four discrete time measures (frequency of drinking at age 12; frequency of drinking at age 17; age at drinking onset; age at onset of drinking monthly or more often).

RESULTS: We identified seven drinking trajectories: late triers (15.2%), decreasers (9.5%), late escalators (10.4%), early slow escalators (16.5%), steady drinkers (14.4%), early rapid escalators (15.8%) and early frequent drinkers (18.2%). Sustained binge drinking was reported by 260 of 787 participants (33.0%) with complete data at both ages 20 and 24. Decreasers did not differ from late triers; all other patterns were associated with higher odds of sustained binge drinking (adjusted ORs: AORs=1.4-17.0). All discrete time measures were associated with sustained binge drinking, notably frequency at age 12 (a bit to try and drinking monthly: (AORs=2.6 (1.7; 3.9) and 2.8 (1.3; 6.1), respectively), age of drinking onset < 13 years (AOR=7.6 (3.0; 24.1)), and any age of onset of drinking monthly or more often (AORs=5.1-8.2).

CONCLUSION: Youth at risk of sustained binge drinking as young adults can be identified with indicators of early drinking as early as 7th grade (aged 12-13 years). Identification of easy-to-obtain indicators can facilitate screening and intervention efforts.


binge drinking, adolescents, epidemiology, preventive medicine, public health

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Copyright © Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2020. Re-use permitted under CC BY-NC. No commercial re-use. This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See:

DOI of Published Version



Sylvestre MP, Wellman RJ, Ahun MN, Datta G, Jutras-Aswad D, O Loughlin J. Discrete time measures versus trajectories of drinking frequency across adolescence as predictors of binge drinking in young adulthood: a longitudinal investigation. BMJ Open. 2020 Sep 23;10(9):e035939. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2019-035939. PMID: 32967870; PMCID: PMC7513599. Link to article on publisher's site

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BMJ open

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License