Does Alcohol in Teens Lead to Adult Woes?

I read an article published in US News and World Report: Alcohol in Teens Leads to Adult Woes. This article describes the discovery that teenagers who drink heavily are much more likely to become alcoholics and have mental disorders and depression when they become adults, and that they are much less likely to finish college or be satisfied with their jobs.

This correlation is not surprising. Have you ever seen a depressed alcoholic satisfied with his/her job?

For me, the interesting question is what the word “leads” in the title “Alcohol in Teens Leads to Adult Woes” means. One might interpret “leads” as indicating that alcohol in teens causes the adult woes. If we persuade our teenagers to abstain from alcohol, will they have fewer problems in their adult lives? Will it help if you install pictures of a cirrhotic liver as a screen saver for your child’s computer?

In the middle of the article, there is a sentence that correctly states:

“What these data don’t tell us is whether those kids were already predisposed to have problems or whether drinking helped cause the trouble.”

Who is the genius who came up with a title that contradicts the article? Did they even read the article? Flashy titles sell better, but such contradictions show disrespect to the reader.

The truth is that correlations are usually insufficient to prove causality; a different type of research is needed. It appears that some of it was actually done. An interesting article, “A longitudinal study of alcohol use and antisocial behaviour in young people,” describes the study that investigated the causality between alcohol and woes. In this study, they started with three hypotheses about the long-term causality:

  • Alcohol use causes antisocial behavior
  • Antisocial behavior causes alcohol use
  • Both above statements are true: alcohol use causes antisocial behavior and the reverse

I didn’t check this study, but the fact that they are trying to compare different hypotheses is encouraging. The result of this study is that the data supports the second hypothesis — in the long run, antisocial behavior causes alcohol use. That means the correct title for the article in the US News and World Report should have been: “Teen Woes Lead to Adult Alcohol.”

So what can you do to stop your teen’s antisocial behavior? There are many studies on that subject too. I do not know if they are correct, but you might consider a fish diet for your teen or sign up your child to train dogs.



  1. Sheila Joyce Gibbs:

    Please let me know, if you would like information regarding, a Alcohol caused illness, that basically takes over for life.

  2. Tanya Khovanova's Math Blog » Blog Archive » Monetizing My Blog:

    […] first correspondent wanted a link on my “Does Alcohol in Teens Lead to Adult Woes?” essay, connecting to a website offering help to alcoholics. I agreed. But when I read the […]

Leave a comment