Current Underage Drinking At Lowest Recorded Level Since 1991
December 18, 2019
Fewer American teens are consuming alcohol underage than ever before, however, the longer-term declines noted over the past few decades have leveled off according to the just released 2019 Monitoring the Future survey. Lifetime, annual, current and binge drinking prevalence rates showed little or no change from 2018 to 2019 among students in 8th, 10th and 12th grades, but all rates are significantly lower than peak years.
Among teens in grades 8, 10, and 12 combined, the majority (58 percent) report they have never consumed alcohol in their lifetime. Over the past decade the number of combined students reporting they have consumed alcohol decreased 23 percent, proportionally, and 48 percent from a record high of 80 percent in 1991, clear indications of the success in delaying the onset of underage drinking.
“Today’s data highlight the continuing long-term declines in underage alcohol consumption among our nation’s youth. These trends combined with high peer disapproval rates and significant declines in the availability of alcohol is good news for many parents. Responsibility.org remains steadfast in its commitment to lead efforts to eliminate underage drinking,” said Chris Swonger, president and CEO of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) and Responsibility.org.
Less than one in five teens report consuming alcohol in the past 30 days. Current alcohol consumption among students in all three grade levels combined reached an all-time record low level (18 percent) in 2019, having declined 32 percent since 2010 and 54 percent since 1991. At the individual grade levels, past month consumption remained relatively unchanged between 2018 and 2019.
Similar to the other measures of consumption, after years of steady decline, the trend in binge drinking (defined as having five or more drinks in a row in the past two weeks) appears to be leveling off. Among 8th, 10th and 12th graders combined binge drinking remained unchanged, but has declined 42 percent proportionally from 2010 to 2019 and 57 percent since 1991.
Peer disapproval of binge drinking remains high among 8th, 10th and 12th graders in 2019, while the perceived risk of binge drinking increased among tenth and 12th graders. Ease of access to alcohol among students declined significantly among younger teen cohorts (8th and 10th graders) and declined slightly among high school seniors. Each of these variables plays a contributing role in the long-term trends in underage alcohol consumption, and Responsibility.org has made significant contributions to these long-term trends and will continue to invest in effective risk and prevention interventions that help to eliminate underage drinking.