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Age of initiation of alcohol use is important for at least two reasons.
First, research in the US has found that the earlier the age at which people begin drinking, the more likely they are to become alcohol dependent later in life.
Second, trends in the age of initiation are one indicator that may be used to monitor larger changes in overall drinking patterns among youth.
Since surveys generally rely on self-reporting and recall, it is difficult to measure age of initiation of alcohol use precisely, and most of the information on this subject is available from the developed countries.
In the US, the average age of first use of alcohol is 13.1 years. For children under particular kinds of stress, age of initiation and likelihood of frequent consumption may be greater.
For instance, street children between the ages of 6 and 18 in Brazil who lived with their families and attended school were less likely to drink alcohol than those who spent all day in the streets and slept there. In the latter group, 25 per cent drank alcohol daily.