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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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