This PhD project aims to examine the trajectories of alcohol-related harms in young people and identify prospective predictors of high-risk harms trajectories
Alcohol use is the leading global risk factor for disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) and deaths in people aged 15-24 years (GBD 2016 Alcohol Collaborators, 2018; Mokdad et al., 2016). Although the burden of disease attributable to alcohol use is much higher for adults aged 25-64 years, the years of life lost for young people is much greater by virtue of the age at which their alcohol use begins to impact their health. Around one in five young Australians drink at levels that place them at increased risk of long-term harm, such as liver disease and certain cancers (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2017). Given that alcohol use initiation typically occurs during mid-adolescence (Degenhardt et al., 2008; Degenhardt, Stockings, Patton, Hall, & Lynskey, 2016), early intervention at this stage of life is especially important in preventing premature deaths and the development of chronic conditions linked to misuse of alcohol.
This project aims to investigate the trajectories of alcohol-related harms in young people and the associated predictors of escalating experience of harms. Common alcohol-related harms, such as alcohol-induced blackouts, will be examined in a longitudinal cohort of young Australians representative of the Australian population for this age group. Severe alcohol-related harms, including traumatic injury and death, will be examined in a health record data-linkage cohort of young people who have been admitted to hospitals and presented to emergency departments across New South Wales, Australia for alcohol-related problems.
The burden of alcohol-related harms on young people necessitates further understanding of the risk factors for harm, particularly rapid escalation of harm. The findings of the proposed research will inform young people, parents, healthcare professionals, and policy makers about the factors associated with acute alcohol-related harm and potential opportunities for early intervention.