Real-time drinking, age of drinking onset, and other drug use predict the adverse alcohol use consequences of tertiary students
Background: Alcohol intake patterns of young adults are of concern. Tertiary students consume greater quantities of alcohol, are at increased risk of injury/harm, and have higher rates of alcohol use disorders (AUD) as compared to their non-university enrolled peers. The Brief Young Adult Alcohol Consequences Questionnaire (BYAACQ) is one of several tools commonly utilised to explore adverse alcohol-related outcomes among tertiary students. Alcohol consumption behaviour assessed via retrospective summary measures has been linked to BYAACQ score. It is unclear, however, how drinking assessed in real-time, in conjunction with variables such as age of drinking onset and other drug use might predict severity of adverse alcohol consequences as captured by the BYAACQ.
Methods: The psychometric properties of the BYAACQ were explored using a large Australian sample of tertiary students (N = 893). A subsample (n = 504) provided alcohol intake information in real-time (21 days; event- and notification-contingent) via a smartphone app (CNLab-A) plus details related to age of drinking onset, drug use, parental alcohol/drug use, and anxiety/depression symptomology.
Results: Average BYAACQ score for the full sample was 7.23 (SD = 5.47). Classical and item response theory analyses revealed some inconsistencies related to dimensionality, progressive item severity, and male/female differential item functioning. Average BYAACQ score of the sub-sample that provided drinking information via the app was 7.62 (SD = 5.20). There were no differences between the total BYAACQ scores of men and women or between the scores of participants who reported they did/did not have a first degree relative with an AUD/SUD. There was a large significant effect of age at first drink on BYAACQ score, F(2, 501) = 35.06, p < .001, ? = .35. Post hoc tests showed individuals who commenced drinking at 15 years or younger had significantly greater BYAACQ scores (M = 9.31, SD = 5.10) than those who consumed their first drink at 16 or 17 (M = 7.62, SD = 4.83; p = .002; 95% CI [0.53, 2.87]), and those who started drinking at 18 or older (M = 4.35, SD = 4.52; p < .001; 95% CI [3.54, 6.39]). There was also a significant difference between the BYAACQ scores of those who commenced drinking at 16 or 17 and those who started at 18 years or older (p < .001; 95% CI [1.85, 4.68]). Current drinking – namely, frequency of intake and quantity per drinking occasion – plus age of drinking onset and other drug use accounted for 33.9% of the variance in BYAACQ score after controlling for age and depression symptomology.
Conclusions: Information related to current drinking, age of drinking onset, and drug use is useful for predicting severity of alcohol use consequences. These markers might enable tertiary institutions to better target students who could benefit from prevention/intervention programs.