Research & Resources

Does Binge Drinking Mediate the Relationship Between Four Adverse Childhood Experiences and Adult Traumatic Brain Injury? Results from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 Cohort

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are associated with increased risk of sustaining a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Alcohol use may play an important role in this relationship. This study examined whether binge drinking contributes to the relationship between four ACEs and TBI sustained in adulthood. Using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 cohort, interviews were conducted with 6,317 individuals annually from 1979 to 1994, then biennially until 2016. The study evaluated the direct and indirect associations between individual, retrospectively reported ACEs (i.e., exposure to physical violence, low parental warmth, familial alcoholism, and familial mental illness); cumulative ACEs scores; mean level of binge drinking (calculated across waves); and having a TBI in adulthood. Cumulative ACEs scores, familial alcoholism, and physical violence exposure were significantly associated with having a TBI, with binge drinking playing a small part in this association. Other ACEs were not significantly associated with binge drinking or TBI. The results indicate that while ACEs and adult TBI risk are significantly associated, lifetime binge drinking explains only a small part of the association. Future research could examine alternative social, biological, and behavioral mechanisms along the pathway between ACEs and TBI. Determining this mechanism will allow public health practitioners to design and implement effective TBI prevention programs for those at higher risk of injury due to ACE exposure.

This paper, “Does binge drinking mediate the relationship between four adverse childhood experiences and adult traumatic brain injury? Results from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 Cohort,” was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and published in the journal Injury prevention.

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