Trends in the Well-Being of America's Children and Youth, 2000. SD 3.3 Alcohol Use Among Youth

01/01/2000

Alcohol use among adolescents is linked to a host of problems, including motor vehicle crashes and deaths, difficulties in school and the workplace, fighting, and breaking the law.42 The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism finds that the younger the age of drinking onset, the greater the chance that an individual at some point in life will develop a clinically defined alcohol disorder.43 In addition, binge drinking by youth at some point in the previous 2 weeks is associated with higher levels of illicit drug use.44

Among 12th-grade students, rates of binge drinking fell from a high of 41.4 percent in 1981 to 27.5 percent in 1993 (see Figure SD 3.3.A). Between 1993 and 1999, rates have edged up modestly to 30.8 percent (see Table SD 3.3.A).45 Having an alcoholic beverage on one or
more occasion in the previous 30 days was reported by 52 percent of 12th-grade students in 1998 but dropped slightly to 51 percent in 1999 (see Table SD 3.3.B).

Differences by Age. Binge drinking increases as students move into the upper grade levels (see Figure SD 3.3.A). In 1999, 15.2 percent of 8th-grade students reported binge drinking, while more than twice this percentage (30.8 percent) reported binge drinking in the 12th grade. A larger increase in binge drinking appears to occur between the 8th and 10th grades than in the period between the 10th and 12th grades (see Table SD 3.3.A).

Differences by Gender. Male students report higher rates of binge drinking than do female students. The disparity in binge drinking rates between males and females is greater in the upper grades, with 38.1 percent of males and 23.6 percent of females in the 12th grade reporting binge drinking in 1999 (see Table SD 3.3.A). Similar disparities exist for regular drinking (see Table 3.3.B).

Differences by Race and Hispanic Origin. Hispanic youth in the 8th grade are more likely than their white and black peers to engage in binge drinking. By the 12th grade, however, white students report a higher prevalence of binge drinking than do either Hispanic or black students. Black students consistently report the lowest prevalence of binge drinking for all grades and across all years (see Table SD 3.3.A).

 

42 Petraitis, J., & Flay, B.R. 1995. Reviewing Theories of Adolescent Substance Use: Organizing Pieces in the Puzzle. Psychological Bulletin 117 (1): 67-86; Hawkins, J.D., Catalano, R.F., & Miller, J.Y. 1992. Risk and Protective Factors for Alcohol and Other Drug Problems in Adolescence and Early Adulthood: Implications for Substance Abuse Prevention. Psychological Bulletin 112 (1): 64-105; National Institute on Drug Abuse. 1987. National Trends in Drug Use and Related Factors among American High School Students and Young Adults, 1976-1986. DHHS Pub. No. (ADM) 87-1535. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
43 Grant, B.R., & Dawson, D.A. Age at Onset of Alcohol Use and Its Association with DSM-IV Alcohol Abuse and Dependence: Results from the National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey. Journal of Substance Abuse 9: 103-110. Also, National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. "Age of Drinking Onset Predicts Future Alcohol Abuse and Dependence." Press release of January 14, 1998.
44 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 1996. Preliminary Estimates from the 1995 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse. Rockville, Md.: Public Health Service. Results from 1995 indicate that among binge drinkers, 18 percent were illicit drug users. In this survey, binge drinking is defined as having five or more drinks on the same occa-sion at least once in the past month. See also: Gruber, E., Diciemente, R.J., Anderson, M.M., & Lodico, M. 1996. Early Drinking Onset and Its Association with Alcohol Use and Problem Behavior in Late Adolescence. Preventive Medicine 25: 293-300.
45 These percentages underestimate the rate of binge drinking among all youth, because school-age youth who are not in school are somewhat more likely to binge drink than those in school. (Based on unpublished analyses of the National Health Interview Survey 1992 by Child Trends, and unpublished prevalence rates of past-month alcohol use among youth ages 12 through 17 by school status, enrolled or not enrolled, from the 1994-95 National Household Surveys on Drug Abuse.)

 

Figure SD 3.3.A Percentage of 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-grade students who reported binge drinking: a Selected years, 1975-1999

a Binge drinking means having five or more drinks in a row in the previous 2 weeks.
Sources: Johnston, O’Malley, & Bachman, 1998, 8th and 10th grade Table D-27; 12th grade Table D-28. Data for 1998: prepublication detail tables provided by Monitoring the Future Study staff: 8th and 10th grade Table D-31; 12th grade Table D-32.

 

Table SD 3.3.A Percentage of 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-grade students in the United States who reported binge drinking,a by gender and by race and Hispanic origin: Selected years, 1975-1999

  1975 1980 1985 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999
8th Grade
Total 12.9 13.4 13.5 14.5 14.5 15.6 14.5 13.7 15.2
Gender  
Male 14.3 13.9 14.8 16.0 15.1 16.5 15.3 14.4 16.4
Female 11.4 12.8 12.3 13.0 13.9 14.5 13.5 12.7 13.9
Race and Hispanic origina, b  
White 12.7 12.6 12.9 13.9 15.1 15.1 14.1 14.3
Black 9.6 10.7 11.8 10.8 10.4 9.8 9.0 9.9
Hispanic 20.4 21.4 22.3 22.0 21.0 20.7 20.4 20.9
10th Grade
Total 22.9 21.1 23.0 23.6 24.0 24.8 25.1 24.3 25.6
Gender  
Male 26.4 23.7 26.5 28.5 26.3 27.2 28.6 26.7 29.7
Female 19.5 18.6 19.3 18.7 21.5 22.3 21.7 22.2 21.8
Race and Hispanic origina, b  
White 23.2 23.0 24.5 25.4 26.2 26.9 27.0 27.2
Black 15.0 14.8 14.0 13.3 12.2 12.7 12.8 12.7
Hispanic 22.9 23.8 24.2 26.8 29.6 27.5 26.3 27.5
12th Grade
Total 36.8 41.2 36.7 32.2 29.8 27.9 27.5 28.2 29.8 30.2 31.3 31.5 30.8
Gender  
Male 49.0 52.1 45.3 39.1 37.8 35.6 34.6 37.0 36.9 37.0 37.9 39.2 38.1
Female 26.4 30.5 28.2 24.4 21.2 20.3 20.7 20.2 23.0 23.5 24.4 24.0 23.6
Race and Hispanic origina, b  
White 44.3 41.5 36.6 34.6 32.1 31.3 31.5 32.3 33.4 35.1 36.4 35.7
Black 17.7 15.7 14.4 11.7 11.3 12.6 14.4 14.9 15.3 13.4 12.3 12.3
Hispanic 33.1 31.7 25.6 27.9 31.1 27.2 24.3 26.6 27.1 27.6 28.1 29.3

a Binge drinking means having five or more drinks in a row in the previous 2 weeks.
b Estimates for whites and blacks include Hispanics of those races. Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.
c Estimates for race and Hispanic origin represent the mean of the specified year and the previous year. Data have been combined to increase subgroup sample sizes, thus providing more stable estimates.
Note: Data for 8th and 10th grades available since 1991. Sources: Johnston, O’Malley, & Bachman, 1998, 8th and 10th grade Table D-27; 12th-grade Table D-28. Data for 1998: prepublication detail tables provided by Monitoring the Future Study staff.

 

Table SD 3.3.B Percentage of 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-grade students in the United States who reported drinking alcohol on one or more occasions,a by gender: Selected years, 1998-1999

  1998 1999
8th Grade
Total 23.0 24.0
Male 24.0 24.8
Female 21.9 23.3
10th Grade
Total 38.8 40.0
Male 40.0 42.3
Female 37.7 38.1
12th Grade
Total 52.0 51.0
Male 57.3 55.3
Female 46.9 46.8

a Question indicated that a “drink” of alcohol is more than a few sips within the last 30 days.
Note: The form of this question changed in 1993 so the data in this report are not comparable to previous editions of this report.
Sources: Bachman, Johnston, & O’Malley, 8th and 10th grade 1991-1996 Questionnaire Forms 1 and 2, item B05C; 12th grade 1980-1988 Questionnaire Forms 1-5, item B04B, and 1989-1997 Questionnaire Forms 1-6, item B04C.

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