Academic journal article Rural Educator

Underage Rural Drinking: Survey Data and Implications for Educators

Academic journal article Rural Educator

Underage Rural Drinking: Survey Data and Implications for Educators

Article excerpt

This article reports data collected in a rural Texas county that explores the beliefs and perceptions of youth about alcohol use. Results from the study suggest high rates of underage drinking and present significant health risks. The data also shed some light on how youth perceive parents, responsibilities, access, and prevention strategies with regard to alcohol usage. Implications for rural educators and health care providers are discussed in light of the findings, with an emphasis on both prevention and intervention.

Large-scale epidemiological studies/surveys of current alcoholism rates in the US have involved various approaches to studying abuse and dependence across different subsets of the US population, including youth. Variations in these approaches to understanding alcoholism have included focusing on differences in ethnic groups (Grant et al., 2004), personality and cognitive differences (Finn, Mazas, Justus, & Steinmetz, 2002; Giancola & Moss, 1998), and even neurochemical perspectives (Moselhy, Georgiou, & Kahn, 2001). In an effort to contribute to this knowledge base, this study focuses on better understanding the relation between underage drinking and rural youth, and reports data collected in a rural Texas county that explores the beliefs and perceptions of youth about alcohol use.

Underage drinking appears to occur frequently in the US. According to the findings from the 2002-2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (Pemberton, Colliver, Robbins, & Gfroerer, 2008), approximately 10.8 million persons aged 12 to 20 (28.3 percent of this age group) reported drinking alcohol in the past month. Approximately 19 percent (7.2 million) were binge drinkers (five or more drinks on one occasion), and 6.2 percent (2.4 million) reported heavy drinking, defined as binge drinking on at least five days in the past 30 days.

Although the alcohol use of rural youth has been less well studied than urban and suburban youth, a growing body of literature has documented various significant findings. For example, 19.8 percent of underage persons in rural counties reported current binge drinking, compared with 17.7 and 20.8 percent of those who lived in counties in large metropolitan areas (population of 1 million or more) and small metropolitan areas (population of less than 1 million), respectively (Pemberton, et al., 2008). Furthermore, in a study of rural youth in West Virginia conducted by Guo et al. (2005), alcohol use was reported by 49 percent of the 121 6 year old respondents. Other studies have reported rural adolescent alcohol use to be two to three times greater than national estimates (Botvin, Malgady, Griffin, Scheier, & Epstein, 1998). These findings provide evidence of the need for further investigation into the frequency and severity of alcohol use among youth in rural areas.

Underage drinking presents a serious health concern, necessitating effective interventions to reduce youth consumption of alcohol. A review by Zeigler et al. (2005) documented the risks of neurotoxicity and harmful cognitive effects of early alcohol use, including disruption of learning and memory, specific functional neurological deficits (e.g. problem-solving, abstract reasoning, perceptual-motor skills, etc.), and long-term neurodegeneration. Furthermore, earlier age of onset of alcohol use is associated with a greater likelihood of adult alcohol abuse (Grant & Dawson, 1 997; Hingson, Heeren, & Winter, 2006; Pitkanen, Lyyra, & Pulkkinen, 2005). Underage drinking may be associated with earlier initiation of sexual behavior, which places youth at risk of unintended pregnancy and contraction of sexually transmitted diseases (Stueve & O'Donnell, 2005). Driving under the influence of alcohol also poses serious health risks. The results from the 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings indicated 7.8 percent of 16 or 17 year olds and 18.3 percent of those 18 to 20 years old reported driving under the influence of alcohol in the past year (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2008). …

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