An alcohol-addled youth rarely leads to a healthy adulthood

Young people should be much more shielded from the damages of alcohol, claims Academy Professor Jaakko Kaprio.

A recently published Finnish-American study supports the understanding that young people are particularly vulnerable to the ill effects of alcohol.

“Families and society should shield young people from the detrimental effects of alcohol,” states Academy Professor Jaakko Kaprio.

It has long been established that an alcohol-addled youth predicts social and health-related difficulties later in life. Many studies have demonstrated that heavy drinking in adolescence contributes to many problems which manifest in early adulthood, such as substance dependency, dropping out of studies, financial troubles and difficulties with personal relationships.

It has generally been assumed that heavy drinking in adolescence and problems in early adulthood could partially stem from both genetic factors as well as family background and other elements of the social environment. Thus, such problems would share a root cause, but have no direct causality between them.

However, a recent Finnish-American study has shown that alcohol plays an independent role in such cases.

The study used Finnish research data on twins and focused on pairs of identical twins with different relationships to alcohol in adolescence.

“Since we studied identical twins, who share an identical genetic and family background, we could exclude genetic and environmental effects.Yet even then, alcohol abuse in adolescence and problems in early adulthood were clearly connected,” Kaprio explains.

“On an individual level, this connection is not attributable to family background or other social factors. Rather, excessive alcohol use in itself appears to render the adolescent susceptible to serious problems in early adulthood.”

“Perhaps excessive alcohol use in adolescence triggers a cycle of events which hinders the individual’s successful graduation to adulthood,” suggests Professor Richard J. Rose of the University of Indiana, who served as principal investigator in the study. “It seems that some adolescents are particularly vulnerable in this sense.”

If direct causality exists between adolescent alcohol abuse and later serious problems, as this study indicates, young people should be informed early about the long-term, cumulative ill effects that excessive alcohol use can have on their later lives, states Professor Rose.