Excessive alcohol use is a serious public health concern worldwide, but less attention has been given to the prevalence, risk and protective factors, and consequences of early alcohol use in low-income, developing countries. The purpose of this study was to determine the associations between early alcohol use, before age 13, and problem drinking among adolescents in Uganda and Zambia. Data from students in Zambia (n=2257; 2004) and Uganda (n=3215; 2003) were obtained from the cross-sectional Global School-Based Student Health Survey (GSHS). The self-administered questionnaires were completed by students primarily 13 to 16 years of age. Multiple statistical models were computed using logistic regression analyses to test the associations between early alcohol initiation and problem drinking, while controlling for possible confounding factors (e.g., current alcohol use, bullying victimization, sadness, lack of friends, missing school, lack of parental monitoring, and drug use). Results show that early alcohol initiation was associated with problem drinking in both Zambia (AOR=1.28; 95% CI:1.02-1.61) and Uganda (AOR=1.48; 95% CI: 1.11- 1.98) among youth after controlling for demographic characteristics, risky behaviors, and other possible confounders.The study shows that there is a significant association between alcohol initiation before 13 years of age and problem drinking among youth in these two countries. These findings underscore the need for interventions and strict alcohol controls as an important policy strategy for reducing alcohol use and its dire consequences among vulnerable youth.
substance use; alcohol use; adolescents; problem drinking