Sipping, drinking, and early adolescent alcohol consumption: a cautionary note

Monika Wadolowski*, Raimondo Bruno, Alexandra Aiken, Chiara Stone, Jake Najman, Kypros Kypri, Tim Slade, Delyse Hutchinson, Nyanda Mcbride, Richard P. Mattick

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Epidemiological studies report markedly varying rates of adolescent alcohol involvement. Despite being a common adolescent behavior, a potential cause of this variation is that consumption of sips is either not measured or not distinguished from consumption of whole beverages. 

Methods: Participants were 1,843 grade 7 adolescents recruited across 49 Australian secondary schools (M age = 12.4, SD = 0.5). Quantity and frequency of lifetime and past 6-month consumption were assessed, distinguishing between sipping and drinking. For comparison with international population surveys, quantity was reported as any consumption, sipping only, and drinking only. 

Results: Combining sipping and drinking into a single category, lifetime consumption was reported by 67.3% of the present sample. Distinguishing lifetime consumption by sipping and drinking: only 7.8% of adolescents had consumed a whole beverage; the remaining 59.6% had only sipped. Consumption of whole beverages was mostly limited to 1 to 2 drinks (84.2% of drinkers). Sipping and drinking were also infrequent: 78.2% of sipping and 60.4% of drinking, occurred less than monthly. Heavy episodic consumption was uncommon (1.2% of the sample). When other population studies were inspected, a clear trend for higher drinking rates were found in those studies where sipping was counted as drinking and vice versa. 

Conclusions: Consumption of whole beverages appears infrequent in early adolescence, as sipping, but not drinking, was common in our sample. Comparing the present data with international population consumption measures highlights the need to more precisely measure and report adolescent consumption, particularly in relation to sipping.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)350-354
Number of pages5
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescents
  • Alcohol
  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health


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