Protocol - Alcohol - Age of First Use

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Protocol Name from Source:

2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH)


Publicly available


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


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
Average time of greater than 15 minutes in an unaffected individualNo
Major equipmentNo
Specialized requirements for biospecimen collectionNo
Specialized trainingNo

Mode of Administration


Life Stage:


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

Research Domain Information

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.

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, Spanish


Common Data Elements (CDE)Alcohol Use Start Age in Years2008447CDE Browser

Process and Review

The [link[phenx.org/node/101|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[www.phenxtoolkit.org/index.php?pageLink=browse.archive.protocols&id=30000|link]])


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:



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