Researchers identify additional risk factors that help predict a child’s potential alcohol use.
In the first study of its kind using a large-scale data linkage, researchers have established a number of previously unknown factors that are likely to contribute to alcohol use in childhood. It is known that a child’s mental health, parental negligence and a dysfunctional family environment are some of the reasons why a child might turn to drink. But researchers have now revealed a more complex set of risk factors that could help professionals to identify children with alcohol related problems.
The study undertook a large-scale, linked-data analysis with a wide range of socio-demographic and household factors, and physical and mental health conditions of children to understand their effect on alcohol use in childhood. The researchers used data from the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) Wales of children born between 2000 and 2002 and linked these with routinely collected electronic health records. Machine learning algorithms and statistical methods were used to discover the factors which can predict a child’s alcohol use.
A mother’s poor mental and physical health, living with someone with an alcohol-related problem, living in a one parent household, living in deprived area, or having behavioural difficulties such as high hyperactivity and conduct disorder, all emerged as predictors of alcohol misuse in adolescence. The study further revealed that children who were not taken to the doctor for their health needs are also at higher risk of early drinking behaviour.
Children who drink alcohol can experience serious negative outcomes later in life including poor educational achievement, health issues, and alcohol dependency in later life. Amrita Bandyopadhyay, lead author of ‘Health and household environment factors linked with early alcohol use in adolescence: a record-linked, data-driven, longitudinal cohort study’, published in the International Journal of Population Data Science, explained that “the identified risk factors in this study highlight that providing additional support for vulnerable families and children with alcohol related problem would improve young people’s outcomes.”
Ms Amrita Bandyopadhyay, Research Officer & Data Scientist, National Centre for Population Health and Wellbeing Research, Swansea University, UK
Bandyopadhyay, A., Brophy, S., Akbari, A. ., Demmler, J. ., Kennedy, J. ., Paranjothy, S. ., Lyons, R. . and Moore, S. . (2022) “Health and household environment factors linked with early alcohol use in adolescence: a record-linked, data-driven, longitudinal cohort study”, International Journal of Population Data Science, 7(1). doi: 10.23889/ijpds.v7i1.1717.