Behavioural determinants of risky alcohol use initiation in at-risk adolescents
Alcohol certainly has a strong influence in the aetiology and continuation of several social, economic and health problems faced by our country. Longitudinal research studies focused on alcohol use initiation in adolescence were reviewed to determine which variables work as predictors or risk factors. In Portugal, few studies have been carried out to investigate such relationship. Since in most cases, initiation of alcohol consumption and abusive consumption occur during adolescence it is crucial to initiate prevention efforts during this life period or even before. The main objective of this study was to analyze the impact of cumulative risk factors such as life events, social support, social connectedness, diet habits, life satisfaction and physical activity for alcohol risk use initiation in an at-risk adolescent population aged between 12 and 18, male and female, living in Residential Homes (Casas de Acolhimento Residencial) in the Northern region of Portugal. It also aimed to establish protective or buffer factors.
This on-going prospective longitudinal study over a one year period uses a self-administered questionnaire to collect data about diet habits, physical activity, alcohol consumption patterns with scales to measure social connectedness, life events, social support and life satisfaction.
Data analysis resorts to descriptive analysis and statistical inference techniques.
Results confirm to existing literature and demonstrate statistically significant correlations between those factors and alcohol use initiation. In addition, it was possible to verify an association between different risk behaviours, which is consistent with the results from previous research in this domain.
Conclusions support the hypothesis defended by different authors about the need of an integrated approach to risk behaviours during adolescence. To design interventions to prevent or delay the beginning of drinking, it is more useful to focus on risk factors linked to the initiation of alcohol use rather than on risk factors for any alcohol use.