Results from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health revealed good news in terms of underage drinking. The annual study sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported three out of four persons under 21 years of age are not drinking.
Reaching new record low levels in 2010, an estimated 10 million 12-20 year olds (or 26% of this age group for whom alcohol consumption is illegal) reported drinking alcohol in the past month down from 10.4 million (27%) in 2009. Rates of binge drinking (17%) and heavy drinking (5%) were also down among 12-20 year olds in 2010. Furthermore, the rates of current, binge, and heavy drinking among underage persons continued to show signs of a decline over the long term after concerns of leveling off in 2009. From 2002 to 2010 current alcohol consumption among 12-20 year olds declined 9 percent while binge drinking dropped 12 percent and heavy drinking declined 18 percent. The average age of first alcohol consumption among those who drank prior to being 21 or older was 16.1, which is slightly higher than the 2009 estimated average of 15.9.
Underage males continue to outdrink their female peers. The variance in gender among males and females aged 12 to 20 was noticeable in reported rates of current drinking (28% v. 24%), binge drinking (20% v. 14%) and heavy drinking (7% v. 4%).
Among current underage drinkers who consumed alcohol in past 30 days, the majority reported that they drank alcohol in their own home (30%) or someone else’s home (55%). Additionally, among these underage drinkers less than one-third paid for the alcohol themselves; among those who did not pay for the alcohol the most frequently cited source for alcohol was an unrelated person aged 21 or older (49%).
Among youth 12 to 17 years of age who believed their parents would strongly disapprove of them drinking alcohol were less likely to drink than youths who believed their parents would somewhat disapprove or neither approve nor disapprove. Similarly, binge drinking was lower among those youth who reported that their parents monitored their behaviors compared to those whose parents did not.
These are signs progress is being made in the fight against underage drinking, but it remains a persistent problem among our youth and one The Century Council is committed to continuing to fight through education, communication initiatives, and legislation.