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Alcohol Misuse in Adolescence Indirectly Tied to Decreased Life Satisfaction Later in Life

A years-long study of more than 2,000 pairs of twins found that alcohol misuse may lead to a variety of health issues and dissatisfaction

Holden Galusha

Holden Galusha is the associate editor for Lab Manager. He was a freelance contributing writer for Lab Manager before being invited to join the team full-time. Previously, he was the...

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For more than a decade, researchers from Rutgers University and Virginia Commonwealth University followed the lives of 2,733 pairs of twins from Finland. The researchers were looking to grasp the long-terms effects of alcohol misuse in adolescent years. While there was little evidence of direct causal links between alcohol misuse and later health issues, both mental and physical, the study demonstrated that midlife dissatisfaction and health issues had considerable indirect links to problematic alcohol consumption in adolescence.

The researchers characterized “direct” links as associations between alcohol use in adolescence and midlife, while the “indirect” links were associations “mediated through subsequent drinking behaviors”—that is, adolescent misuse often continues into young adulthood and later midlife. Previous literature in this domain has shown that early alcohol misuse is directly tied to abuse of other substances and mental health risks. This study is unique in that indirect links on long-term life satisfaction and broader health consequences were realized.

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Beginning the study when the mean age of the participants was 16 years old, the researchers sent them all questionnaires concerning their alcohol consumption and the side effects of it. Then, at mean ages 17, 18.5, 24, and 34 to 38 years old, all the participants were sent additional questionnaires. The last set of questionnaires asked the twins to report their health issues, self-rated health, and overall life satisfaction. The response analysis showed that those who reported having struggles with alcohol usage throughout their lives were less satisfied with their lives and exhibited more health issues.

“The longitudinal twin design is especially helpful for clarifying whether there are confounding family factors that predispose someone to both misuse alcohol in adolescence and experience poorer physical health and well-being later on in early midlife,” said study coauthor Jessica Salvator of Rutgers. “This is because the twin design allows us to compare exposures and outcomes over time within the same family.”

These findings highlight the need for more effective intervention methods for teenagers struggling with alcohol misuse.