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The good news is that rates of teen drinking were at all-time lows in 2016, continuing a modest but steady decline that started around 2009, according to data from the ongoing Monitoring the Future study, which tracks rates of drug and alcohol use among teens. Parents have the Internet to think for this more than anything else; as more teens withdraw into digital hermitdom, they are going out and hanging out less IRL, which has been leading to lower rates of everything from substance use to driving deaths and overall delinquency. The bad news is that even with these declines, a significant among of underage drinking still occurs. Here are some facts and statistics on alcohol use by children and teens:

General facts about teen drinking

  1. 10.1% of all current drinkers in 2002 were underage. This included 19% (or 6.8 million youth) who were binge drinking and 6% (2.1 million youth) who were considered heavy drinkers. (Hanson et al., 2004, p. 200)

  1. Alcohol consumption increases dramatically through high school, with the amount of students drinking doubling between 9th and 12th grades to around 60%. (ibid, pp. 200, 207)

  1. 12th-grade boys are more likely than girls to drink alcohol on a daily basis (6.4% of boys versus 1.4% of girls) and to have engaged in binge drinking within the past 2 weeks: 39% of boys versus 24% of girls. (ibid, p. 207)

Rates of underage drinking

  1. About 70% of teens will drink during high school. (Painter, 4-12-2011) In 2002, 78.4% of high school seniors had used alcohol sometime in their life; 71.5% in the previous year, and 48.6% in the previous month. Fifteen-percent also admitted to having been drunk or wasted at some point in their life. (Johnston et al., 2003)

  1. In 2016 (the most recent year available), 7% of 8th graders, 20% of 10th graders and 33% of 12th graders admitted to drinking within the past 30 days. (Johnston et aI., 2017, p. 37)

  1. Current alcohol use among 12-year-olds is 2.6%. By 21 this will climb to 67.5% (Hanson et al., 2004, p. 303)

  1. Fifty-three percent of 8th-graders have tried alcohol. This climbs to 70% of 10th graders, 8% of 12th graders, and 89% of underage college students. (NIDA, 1999) In 2002, 20% of 8th-graders, 35% of 10th graders, and 49% of 12th graders had consumed alcohol in the past 30 days. (Johnston, O’Malley & Bachman, 2003) Another survey found that 14% of 8th graders, 24% of 10th graders, and 32% of 12th graders had engaged in +heavy drinking+ in teh past 2 weeks. (NIDA, 1999)

  2. Rates of reported underage drinking vary widely from state to state. One SAMHSA survey found Vermont had the highest reported rate of underage drinking, with 36.6% of 12- to 20-year-olds drinking within the past month. Utah was the lowest at 14.2%. (Shorman, 2011)

Teen binge drinking statistics

For children & teens, binge drinking is considered to be more than 3 or 4 drinks in a single setting. Here are some statistics on teenage binge drinking:

  1. In 2015 and 2016, 3% of 8th graders, 10% of 10th graders and 16% of 12th graders were binge drinkers. (Johnston et al., 2017)

  1. Another survey found that 23% of high school seniors admitted to binge drinking in 2010. (Painter, 4-12-2011)

Trends in teenage drinking and the number of teens who abstain from alcohol

  1. The good news is that nationwide, underage binge drinking is on the decline. Between 1983 and 1992, binge drinking among 12th graders dropped from 41% to 28%. (Johnston et al., 2017)

  1. Another study found that underage binge drinking among all youth decreased slightly between the 2002-2003 to 2008-2009 period, from 19.2% to 17.7%. (Shorman, 2011)

  1. In 2010 the percentage of high school seniors who didn’t drink in the past 30 days rose from 54.7% in 2006 to 58.8% in 2010, according to the Monitoring the Future study. (Weise, 2-7-2011)

  1. Since 2006, the number of incoming college freshman who abstain from alcohol has jumped from 38% to 62%. Other researchers have seen similar trends, though not quite as dramatic. For example, data from Roger Williams Univ. found that 22.8% of incoming freshman said they hadn’t drank alcohol in the previous year. (ibid)

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