A new study announced March 16 reveals that the earlier people first start drinking alcohol, the greater their chances of using alcohol as a coping technique to deal with stress later in life.

"We found that the impact of stressful life events on drinking behavior depends on the age at first drink," Dorothea Blomeyer, a senior researcher at the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim, Germany, said in a statement. "The earlier they start with alcohol use, the stronger the association between life stress and drinking."

While the reasons why early drinkers rely more on alcohol are not clear, some experts advise that parents delay offering their children any alcohol for as long as possible.

"Some parents feel that it's a good idea to let their young children drink at home under controlled circumstances," said Ralph Hingson, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in the US in an interview with health and science website MyHealthNewsDaily.com. "Perhaps delaying access to alcohol would be a better approach, and certainly it's a doable thing."

How to manage your stress without relying on alcohol? Medical resource WebMD recommends learning better ways to manage your time and finding ways to cope with stress, such as relying on a support system of friends or family.

Or trade in your afterwork drink for a vigorous workout - data pooled from many small studies suggests that people suffering mental strain get not only an immediate boost from exercise but also longer-term relief. How much exercise do you need? One study suggests positive results with as little as 150 minutes of moderate exercise (such as walking) or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise (such as running) each week. Also be sure to get plenty of rest, eat well, and don't smoke.

The latest alcohol study will appear in the upcoming June issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

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