Alcohol Use

Alcohol Use

Information on familial history of alcohol abuse or dependency was collected during the 1988 survey and included a series of questions on whether relatives of the respondent had been alcoholics or problem drinkers, the relationship of the respondent to up to seven such alcoholic relatives, and the length of time, if any, that the respondent resided with each such relative. Table 1 summarizes the alcohol use variables collected for the NLSY79 and the survey years during which each type of variable was collected. 

There is considerable variation in both the quantity and type as well as the wording of alcohol use questions.  The 1989 questionnaire, for example, combined the typically asked 'drinking ever interfered with schoolwork or job' questions into a single ' kept drinking even though caused problems with work/home/school' question but expanded the number of questions dealing with the impact of alcohol use on other aspects of the respondent's life (such as personal relationships, health, participation in outside interests and activities).  Many of the NLSY79 alcohol use questions have been adapted from those asked in the National Health Interview Surveys conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Table 1. Alcohol Variables by Survey Year: NLSY79

Item  Survey Years
82 83 84 85 88 89 92 94 02 06 08 10 12
14
Quantity-Frequency
Ever had a drink * * * * * *   *            
Age when started drinking * *                        
Age when started drinking at least once a month   *                        
Had any alcoholic beverages in last month * * * * * *   * * * * * * *
Frequency of 6+ drinks one occasion in last month * * * * * *   * * * * * *
# days drank in last week * * * *     *              
# bottles/glasses/drinks of beer/wine/liquor in last week * * * *                    
# days drank in last month   * * * * *   * * * * * *
# days had 1/2/3/4/5/6+ drinks in last month   * * *                    
# days had hangover in last month   * * *                    
Total # days had drink in last month   * * *                    
Frequency of going to bars last month * * *                      
# drinks per day/# R usually has on days R drinks         * * * * * * * * *
  82 83 84 85 88 89 92 94 02 06 08 10 12
14
Abuse-Dependency Symptoms
Physiological/Behavioral Symptoms
Felt aggressive/cross while drinking     * * *                  
Got into heated argument     * * *                  
Got into a fight     * * *     *            
Did things while drinking that caused others to be hurt           *   *            
Can't remember activity while drunk     * * *                  
Tried to cut down or quit but failed     * * *     *            
Afraid might be/become alcoholic     * * *                  
Spent a lot of time drinking/getting over drinking           *   *            
Sick/vomited after drinking           *   *            
Difficult to stop once started           *   *            
Sweat/shake after drinking           *   *            
Needed drink so badly couldn't think of anything else           *                
Drank more than intended to           *   *            
Got drunk instead of doing things supposed to           *                
So hung over that it interfered with things supposed to do           *   *            
Heard/saw things not there           *   *            
Difficult to stop until completely intoxicated     * * *                  
Often take a drink first thing in the morning     * * *                  
Hands shake in the morning     * * *                  
Get drunk while drinking alone     * * *                  
Kept drinking after promised self not to     * * *                  
Had strong desire/urge to drink           *                
Found same amount of alcohol had less effect           *   *            
Found you had to drink more than once did to get same effect           *   *            
Continued drinking even though threat to health           *   *            
Continued drinking even though caused emotional problems           *   *            
  82 83 84 85 88 89 92 94 02 06 08 10 12
14
Lifestyle Symptoms (Impact on School, Work, Relationships)
Drinking ever interfered with schoolwork * * * *                    
Drinking ever interfered with job * * * *                    
Kept drinking even though caused problems with work, home, school           *   *            
Stayed away from work because of hangover     * * *     *            
Got drunk on the job     * * *                  
Lost/nearly lost job because of drinking     * * *                  
Drinking led to quitting job     * * *     *            
Drinking hurt chances for promotion     * * *     *            
Significant other left/threatened to leave           *   *            
Arrested/trouble with police after drinking               *            
Drink to keep from shaking after drinking/morning after drinking           *   *            
Lost ties with/drifted apart from family members           *   *            
Gave up/cut down activities/interests           *   *            
Drove a car after drinking too much           *   *            
  82 83 84 85 88 89 92 94 20 06 08 10 12
14
Familial History of Alcohol Abuse/Dependency
Any relatives been alcoholics/problem drinkers at any time         *                  
Relationship to 1st/2nd/3rd/4th/5th/6th alcoholic relative         *                  
# years lived with 1st/2nd/3rd/4th/5th/6th alcoholic relative         *                  

Two additional sets of alcohol use variables not included in Table1 have been collected for select NLSY79 respondents: 

  • Alcohol use during pregnancy information was gathered for female respondents during the 1983-86, 1988, 1990, 1992, and 1994-2014 surveys
  • The 1980 illegal activities supplement asked under aged respondents a question on the number of times they had consumed alcoholic beverages without their parents' permission

Comparison to Other NLS Cohorts: Beginning in 1988 the NLSY79 Child and Young Adult surveys included several questions about alcohol use for children ages 10 and older. A more extensive sequence about alcohol use and abuse was included in the Young Adult survey beginning in 1994. 

The NLSY97 round 1 survey first established whether the respondent had ever consumed an alcoholic beverage and asked for the respondent's age at first use.  In subsequent rounds all respondents were asked whether they had a drink of an alcoholic beverage since the date of last interview and if so what was the quantity and frequency of alcohol use. 

The 1989 and 1995-2003 interviews of the Mature Women, the 1991-2003 surveys of the Young Women, and the 1990 survey of Older Men also gathered data on the frequency and quantity of alcohol consumption.

Survey Instruments and Documentation Alcohol use questions can be found within the following sections of the youth questionnaires: Section 12 (1982); Section 13 (1983-85 and 1988); Section 11 (1989); 1992 Self-Administered Drug Use Supplement; and Section 12 (1994, 2002, 2006, and 2012). The alcohol use during pregnancy questions can be found in the "Fertility" section of the questionnaire.
Areas of Interest Alcohol use variables for all years except 1992 can be found within the "Alcohol" area of interest on the main NLSY79 data set; the 1992 variables are located in "Drugs." The alcohol use during pregnancy items are located in the various "Birth Record" and "Birth Record xxxx" areas of interest.