The Relationships of the Level of Response to Alcohol and Additional Characteristics to Alcohol Use Disorders Across Adulthood: A Discrete-Time Survival Analysis


Reprint requests: Ryan S. Trim, Department of Psychiatry (116A), University of California, San Diego and the VA San Diego Healthcare System, 3350 La Jolla Village Drive, San Diego, CA 92161-2002; Fax: 858-552-7424; E-mail:


Background:  A low level of response (LR) to alcohol has been shown to relate to a higher risk for alcohol use disorders (AUDs). However, no previous research has examined the association between LR and the development of AUDs in the context of additional robust risk factors for AUDs. This study evaluated whether LR and other related characteristics predicted the occurrence of AUDs across adulthood using discrete-time survival analysis (DTSA).

Methods:  A total of 297 probands from the San Diego Prospective Study reported on the LR to alcohol, a family history (FH) of AUDs, the typical drinking quantity, the age of drinking onset, the body mass index and the age at the baseline (T1) assessment. Alcohol use disorders (AUDs) were evaluated at the 10-year (T10), T15, T20, and T25 follow-ups.

Results:  A low LR to alcohol predicted AUD occurrence over the course of adulthood even after controlling for the effects of other robust risk factors. Interaction effects revealed that the impact of FH on AUDs was only observed for subjects with high T1 drinking levels, and probands with high T1 drinking were at high risk for AUDs regardless of their age of onset.

Conclusions:  The findings illustrate that LR is a unique risk factor for AUDs across adulthood, and not simply a reflection of a broader range of risk factors. The continued investigation of how LR is related to AUD onset later in life will help inform treatment providers about this high-risk population, and future longitudinal evaluations will utilize DTSA to assess rates of AUD remission as well as the onset of drinking outcomes in adolescent samples.