Problem drinking and substance abuse in adulthood can be attributed to frequent teenage drinking Australasian research has found.

The research suggests that those who drink weekly before age 17 are three times more likely to binge drink, drink drive, be alcohol dependent and use other drugs than their peers.

Nine thousand New Zealanders and Australians from age 13 to 30 took part in the study to provide evidence on the causal relationship between teen drinking and related problems in adulthood.

It also uncovered that there is no direct relationship between teen drinking and negative psycho-social outcomes, such as sexual risk-taking, early parenthood and mental health problems.

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The University of Otago's Christchurch Health and Development Study played a key role, along with the Universities of New South Wales, Melbourne and Queensland.

Associate Professor Joe Boden from the University of Otago says the study provides "robust evidence" for policymakers, health promoters and parents.

The research highlights several areas for possible reform of alcohol laws, in particular, to increase the minimum purchase age.

Boden suggested that delaying when teenagers start drinking could have a significant impact on reducing problems from occurring later in life.

The results of the study were also published in the international journal, Addiction.

The study also found:

• Those who drank at least weekly before age 17 had rates of alcohol dependence in adulthood that were three times higher than those who did not drink before age 17.

• Drinking at least weekly before age 17 also increased the risk of smoking cigarettes in adulthood by 60 per cent

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• Weekly drinkers prior to age 17 had rates of drink-driving in adulthood that were almost three times higher than those who did not drink before age 17.

• Drinking at least weekly during adolescence also increased typical alcohol consumption during adulthood by approximately 80 per cent compared with those who did not drink prior to age 17.