Original Quantitative Research Identifying Trajectories of Alcohol Use among a Sample of Secondary-School Students in Ontario and Alberta: Longitudinal Evidence from the COMPASS Study
Despite evidence indicating a rapid progression in use of alcohol during adolescence, little is known about the ways patterns of alcohol use develop over time. This study investigated patterns of alcohol use within a cohort of youth in Ontario and Alberta and the probability of changes between patterns.
The sample consists of two-year linked longitudinal data (school year 2013/14 to 2014/15) from 19,492 students in Grades 9 to 12 in 89 secondary schools across Ontario and Alberta, Canada, who participated in the COMPASS study. The latent class analysis used two self-reported items about the frequency of alcohol use (measured as none, monthly, weekly, or daily use) and the frequency of binge alcohol use (measured as none, less than or once a month, 2–4 times a month, or more than once week) to characterize patterns of alcohol use. The effects of gender, ethnicity and cannabis and cigarette use on alcohol use patterns were examined.
The study identified four alcohol use patterns: non-user, periodic alcohol user (reported monthly alcohol use and no binge alcohol use), low-risk alcohol user (reported monthly alcohol use and limited binge alcohol use) and high-risk regular alcohol user (reported alcohol use 1–3 times a week and binge alcohol use 2-4 times a month). Non-user was the most prevalent pattern at baseline (55.7%) and follow-up (39.7%). Periodic alcohol users had the highest likelihood of an increase in alcohol consumption, with 40% moving to the low-risk pattern. A notable proportion of participants returned to a lower severity pattern or transitioning out of alcohol use.
There are four distinct youth alcohol-use patterns. The high probability of transitioning to alcohol use during the secondary school years suggests the need for preventive interventions in earlier stages of use, before alcohol use becomes habitual.
These findings show there is no such thing as low-risk alcohol use,” said Mahmood Gohari, study author and a public health postdoctoral researcher at University of Waterloo, as per, their website.
We need to be concerned about even infrequent rates of alcohol use among youth.”Mahmood Gohari, study author, public health postdoctoral researcher at University of Waterloo