Alcohol use across the life course: links with Health and Wellbeing

Alcohol is a key risk factor for chronic disease, injury and death, and is therefore of significant policy relevance. It raises key questions about causal processes, such as selection. Health guidance, policy, and early prevention require solid evidence about timing and mechanisms of dangers (or benefits) of drinking. This project will use data from the 1958 National Child Development Study (NCDS), 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS70), Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) and Next Steps (previously known as the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England, LSYPE). Two connected streams of research will extend our prior US National Institutes of Health-funded work on predictors and consequences of alcohol use in the British cohort studies and facilitate closer collaboration with CLS investigators. Using over 5 decades of NCDS, BCS70, Next Steps, and MCS data covering childhood through midlife, our US-based team will collaborate with the other project leads to assess short- and long-term impacts of alcohol use on health-risk behaviours, mental health, and physical health.

Research questions:

Aim 1: Short-term health impacts of alcohol in youth (using MCS and Next Steps data)

  1. Do factors (such as early child aggression, hyperactivity, parent alcohol and illicit drug use) influence a child’s decision to drink?
  2. Is early drinking harmful?

Aim 2: Long-term health impacts of alcohol across adulthood (using BCS70 and NCDS data)

1. Is abstention harmful, when considering that mortality is highest among adult heavy drinkers and abstainers?

2. How does the health and mortality of abstainers compare with light drinkers?


April 1, 2016 – December 2018

Project team:

  • Jennifer Maggs (Lead, Penn State)
  • Jeremy Staff (Health strand Co-I Penn State)