Featured Article: TVEM to Examine Gender Differences in Drinking Behavior

April 4, 2018:tvem gender differences

Historically, studies of health behaviors such as drug and alcohol abuse have included far more male participants than female participants. This creates potentially serious gaps in the available scientific knowledge about how drug and alcohol abuse differs for males and females. In a recent article published in Statistical Methods in Medical Research, Methodology Center Investigator Runze Li, lead author Songshan Yang, and their collaborators apply time-varying effect modeling (TVEM) to understand gender differences in drinking behaviors across adolescence. The authors’ goal was to understand gender differences in development of alcohol-use patterns in order to facilitate the development of tailored intervention and prevention efforts.

To examine these gender differences, the authors applied TVEM to longitudinal panel data from the Michigan Longitudinal Survey. The sample included 699 participants who ranged in age from 12 to 26 throughout the study, with up to 15 observations per individual. They found that among both males and females, alcohol consumption increased in early adolescence at a similar rate. From middle adolescence to young adulthood, both groups continue to increase, but the rate of increase is much higher for males. Both males and females show decreased drinking after the age of 24, suggesting maturation that reduces drinking behavior.

The authors also applied TVEM to daily phone-survey data from 2022 adults in the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States. They did this to demonstrate that TVEM is flexible enough for use with both multi-wave longitudinal studies and short-term studies with intensive data collection. Beyond substance abuse, TVEM is flexible and can be applied in many contexts to compare trajectories between groups.