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Risky Drinking Factors Studied in Underage U.S. Marines

Adverse childhood experiences a factor associated with problem drinking in new recruits

TUESDAY, Dec. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Adverse childhood experiences may increase the likelihood of risky underage drinking among young men who enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps, according to a report published in the December issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Sylvia Y.N. Young, M.D., of the Naval Health Research Center in San Diego, Calif., and colleagues surveyed 41,482 male Marines aged 18 to 20 who started military training between June 11, 2002, and April 5, 2006. Overall, 6,128 (14.8 percent) were risky drinkers, 18,693 (45.1 percent) were non-risky drinkers and 16,661 (40.2 percent) were non-drinkers.

An onset of drinking at age 13 or younger was associated with a 5.5-fold increased chance of risky drinking. Smokers, recruits from rural or small hometowns, and those who reported household alcohol abuse or mental illness and childhood sexual or emotional abuse were also more likely to be risky drinkers. Married recruits were less likely to be risky drinkers, as were those who said they joined "to serve my country" rather than for travel , adventure or to leave problems at home.

"Future studies may determine whether adverse childhood experiences help build resiliency and coping skills so that Marines subsequently involved in combat are less susceptible to developing mental health problems or whether they contribute to increased susceptibility to problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder and problems related to alcohol misuse," the authors write.

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