Document Type


Publication Date



Objective: Osteoporosis is a costly bone disease characterized by low bone mineral density (BMD) that primarily affects postmenopausal women. One factor that may lead to osteoporosis is a failure to reach peak bone mass (PBM) in early adulthood. In older adults and animal models, heavy episodic drinking (HED) has been found to predict failure to reach PBM. However, this relationship has yet to be investigated in adolescent human females. Method: Female college students (N = 87; 60% White) reported age at menarche, hormonal contraceptive use, physical activity, smoking habits, and HED history via an online survey and then received a dual energy x-ray absorptiometry bone scan to assess both lean body mass and BMD at the lumbar spine. Results: Frequent HED (having four or more drinks within 2 hours on 115 or more occasions since the start of high school, which is approxi mately equal to 1.6 episodes per month over this period) was associated with decreased vertebral BMD even when variables most commonly associated with bone health (lean body mass, physical activity, age at menarche, smoking, and oral contraception use) were controlled for. However, early HED initiation (beginning HED at age 15 years or younger) was not significantly related to BMD. Conclusions: This is the first study to assess the impacts of early HED initiation and frequent HED during adolescence on the bone health of young women. Results suggest frequency of HED before reaching PBM, but not age at initiation, may be negatively related to skeletal health during young adulthood. These findings encourage research into the association between HED and BMD in late adolescence.

Recommended Citation

LaBrie JW, Boyle S, Earle A, Almstedt HC. Heavy Episodic Drinking Is Associated With Poorer Bone Health in Adolescent and Young Adult Women. J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2018;79(3):391-398. doi:10.15288/jsad.2018.79.391