Scientists have suggested that young people, who are impulsive, are more likely to start drinking heavily at an early age.
Researchers at the University of Liverpool suggested that targeting personality traits, like impulsivity, could potentially be a successful intervention in preventing adolescent drinking from developing into problems with alcohol in later life.
AdvertisementStudies in the UK show that approximately 24 percent of 12 year olds have reported at least one episode of alcohol consumption, rising to 77 percent of 15 year olds.
The team used computer tests that measured inhibitory control, the ability to delay gratification, and risk-taking.
More than 280 young people who were aged 12 or 13 at the beginning of the study took part in the study. The participants repeated the computer tests every six months over the two years of the study.
Results showed that those participants who were more impulsive in the tests went on to drink more heavily or have problems with alcohol at a later time.
The study did not, however, show that alcohol consumption led to increased impulsive behaviour on the computer tests. This suggests that there is a link between impulsivity and adolescent drinking, but that alcohol may not necessarily lead to increased impulsive behaviour in the short-term.
Professor Matt Field, from the University's Institute of Psychology Health and Society, said that young people in the UK have started drinking alcohol at a younger age than in the past, and much of this reflects broad social trends.
There are, however, significant differences in the age at which teenagers start to experiment with alcohol and the age at which they start drinking regularly.
Field said that it is important to identify the psychological characteristics of adolescents who are likely to go on to drink heavily, because this can help us target alcohol prevention more effectively.
In addition, we need to identify the consequences of heavy drinking during adolescence for health in general, and brain development in particular.
The research has been published in the journal Addiction.
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