Patterns of high-intensity drinking among young adults in the United States: A repeated measures latent class analysis

Megan E. Patrick, Yvonne M. Terry-McElrath, John E. Schulenberg, Bethany C. Bray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Objective Using a national sample of young adults, this study identified latent classes of alcohol use including high-intensity drinking (10+ drinks) from ages 18 to 25/26, and explored associations between time-invariant covariates measured at age 18 and class membership. Method Longitudinal data from the national Monitoring the Future study were available for 1078 individuals (51% female) first surveyed as 12th grade students in 2005–2008, and followed through modal age 25/26. Repeated measures latent class analysis was used to identify latent classes based on self-reported alcohol use: no past 30-day drinking, 1–9 drinks per occasion in the past 2 weeks, and 10+ drinks per occasion. Results Four latent classes of alcohol use from ages 18 to 25/26 were identified: (1) Non-Drinkers (21%); (2) Legal Non-High-Intensity Drinkers (23%); (3) Persistent Non-High-Intensity Drinkers (40%); and (4) High-Intensity Drinkers (16%). Membership in the High-Intensity Drinkers class was characterized by higher than average probabilities of high-intensity drinking at all ages, with the probability of high-intensity drinking increasing between ages 18 and 21/22. Both gender and race/ethnicity significantly differentiated class membership, whereas neither parental education (a proxy for socioeconomic status) nor college plans at 12th grade showed significant associations. Conclusions More than one in seven individuals who were seniors in high school experienced a long-term pattern of high-intensity drinking lasting into middle young adulthood. Young adult high-intensity drinking is often preceded by high-intensity drinking in high school, suggesting the importance of screening and prevention for high-intensity drinking during adolescence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)134-139
Number of pages6
JournalAddictive Behaviors
StatePublished - Nov 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was funded by support from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism [R01 AA023504 to M. E. Patrick] and the National Institute on Drug Abuse [R01 DA037902 to M. E. Patrick; R01 DA001411 and R01 DA016575 to L. D. Johnston; P50 DA10075 and P50 DA039838 to L. M. Collins]. The content here is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the sponsors. The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier Ltd


  • Alcohol
  • High-intensity drinking
  • Latent class analysis
  • Longitudinal


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