Risk factors for adolescent alcohol use following a natural disaster

Janine M. Schroeder, Melissa A. Polusny

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Introduction: On 29 March 1998, a series of category F-3 and F-4 tornadoes caused wide-spread destruction in four rural southern Minnesota counties in the United States. Extensive research has examined the impact of disaster exposure on adults' psychological functioning, including alcohol use. However, there has been little research on potential risk factors for adolescents' alcohol use following disaster exposure.Hypothesis: It was hypothesized that demographic variables such as age and gender, prior drinking involvement, extent of prior trauma history, level of disaster exposure, and current disaster-related, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptomatology would predict alcohol use among adolescents.Methods: Six months following a natural disaster, survey data were collected from 256 adolescents assessing these factors. Risk factors for adolescents' alcohol use were identified using hierarchical, multiple regression and logistic regression analyses.Results: Greater age, prior drinking involvement, and the extent of prior trauma history were significantly associated with higher levels of binge drinking. Prior trauma history and current levels of disaster-related PTSD symptomatology were significant risk factors for adolescents' report of increases in their alcohol consumption since the tornado.Conclusion: In general, the extent of trauma exposure was associated with greater binge drinking among adolescents. Similar to adults, post-traumatic stress symptoms experienced in the aftermath of a disaster can lead to increased alcohol consumption among adolescents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)122-127
Number of pages6
JournalPrehospital and Disaster Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2004

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by RAPID grant R03 MH59660-01 from the National Institute of Mental Health. Preliminary findings were presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Advancement of Behavior Therapy. Portions of this work were completed by Janine M. Schroeder in partial fulfillment of thesis requirements for her Master of Arts degree at Minnesota State University, Mankato, under the supervision of Melissa A. Polusny.Janine M. Schroeder is now at the Department of Psychology, Western Michigan University.


  • adolescents
  • alcohol use
  • natural disaster
  • post-traumatic stress
  • risk factors


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