Protocol - Alcohol - Age of First Use

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Measurement to ascertain the respondent’s age at which he or she had his or her first alcoholic drink.

Specific Instructions

Respondents are only asked this question if they answered "yes" to the Alcohol - Lifetime Use measure. Alcohol is defined as any type of alcohol (including coolers, beer, wine, champagne) and liquor (e.g., whiskey, rum, gin, vodka, scotch, or liqueurs).

The Working Group acknowledges that the following question may gather sensitive information relating to the use of substances or illegal conduct. If the information is released, it might be damaging to an individual’s employability, lead to social stigmatization, or result in other consequences.

For information on obtaining a Certificate of Confidentiality, which helps researchers protect the privacy of human research participants, please go to the National Human Genome Research Institute’s Institutional Review Board website.

The following question is asked of the respondent. Respondents answer "yes" or "no" to this question. Read the introductory paragraph to the respondent. If your questionnaire includes multiple questions about alcohol, then the first sentence should be "The next questions are about drinking alcohol."

If the respondent needs a visual reference for the size, the flashcards from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC-III) study are provided below:

Size of Cooler

Card 26A

Card 26B

Card 26C

Size of Wine

Card 28A

Card 28B

Card 28C

Size of Liquor

Card 29A

Card 29B

Card 29C




The next question is about drinks of alcoholic beverages. By a "drink," we mean a can or bottle of beer, a glass of wine or a wine cooler, a shot of liquor, or a mixed drink with liquor in it. We are not asking about times when you only had a sip or two from a drink.

  1. Think about the first time you had a drink of an alcoholic beverage. How old were you the first time you had a drink of an alcoholic beverage? Please do not include any time when you only had a sip or two from a drink.

AGE: ________

Personnel and Training Required

Interviewer must be trained and found competent to conduct personal interviews with individuals from the general population. The interviewer should be trained to prompt respondents further if a "don’t know" response is provided.

Equipment Needs

While the source instrument was developed for administration by computer, the PhenX Expert Review Panel acknowledges that these questions can be administered in a noncomputerized format.

Requirement CategoryRequired
Major equipment No
Specialized training No
Specialized requirements for biospecimen collection No
Average time of greater than 15 minutes in an unaffected individual No
Mode of Administration

Interviewer-administered questionnaire




18 years of age or older

Selection Rationale

The protocol from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) was chosen because it is a large, nationally representative study. The measures from this survey have been validated and psychometrically tested.


English, Other languages available at source

Human Phenotype Ontology Alcoholism HP:0030955 HPO
caDSR Form PhenX PX030202 - Alcohol Age Of First Use 6910165 caDSR Form
Derived Variables


Process and Review

The Expert Review Panel #3 (ERP 3) reviewed the measures in Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Substances, and Substance Abuse and Addiction domains.

Guidance from ERP 3 includes:

• Updated protocol

• New Data Dictionary

Back-compatible: Not back-compatible (vastly different than previous protocol which would require a new data dictionary) and not recommended for use (discredited or no longer considered broadly validated)

Previous version in Toolkit archive (link)

Protocol Name from Source

National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 2015


Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015, February). National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 2015. Rockville, MD: Author. CAI Specifications for Programming, English Version. Question AL02.

General References

Hingson, R., Zha, W., & White, A. (2016). The usefulness of "age at first drink" as a concept in alcohol research and prevention. Addiction.

McBride, O., & Cheng, H. G. (2011). Exploring the emergence of alcohol use disorder symptoms in the two years after onset of drinking: Findings from the National Surveys on Drug Use and Health. Addiction, 106(3), 555-563.

Protocol ID


Export Variables
Variable Name Variable IDVariable DescriptiondbGaP Mapping
PX030202010000 Think about the first time you had a drink more
of an alcoholic beverage. How old were you the first time you had a drink of an alcoholic beverage? Please do not include any time when you only had a sip or two from a drink. show less
Variable Mapping
Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Substances
Measure Name

Alcohol - Age of First Use

Release Date

November 21, 2016


Question asking the respondent how old he or she was when he or she first consumed an alcoholic beverage.


This measure captures when the participant had his or her first alcoholic drink.


alcohol, alcohol age, alcohol initiation, alcohol onset, alcohol use, alcohol abuse, coolers, beer, wine, champagne, liquor, whiskey, rum, gin, vodka, scotch, liqueurs, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, NIAAA, National Survey on Drug Use and Health, NSDUH, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM, gerontology, aging, geriatrics

Measure Protocols
Protocol ID Protocol Name
30202 Alcohol - Age of First Use

There are no publications listed for this protocol.