Academic journal article Alcohol Research

Drinking over the Lifespan: Focus on Early Adolescents and Youth

Academic journal article Alcohol Research

Drinking over the Lifespan: Focus on Early Adolescents and Youth

Article excerpt

In describing patterns of alcohol use among early adolescents (ages 12-14) and youth (ages 15-20), there is both good news and bad news. The good news is that research findings with U.S. national epidemiology data from long-term annual surveys of high-school students, such as the Monitoring the Future surveys, have indicated historical shifts toward overall decreases in levels of alcohol use among early adolescents and youth (Johnston et al. 2013). For example, national data from the Monitoring the Future studies have indicated that in 2012, historic lows in the prevalence of alcohol use were reported across all three grade levels assessed (i.e., 8th, 10th, and 12th graders). Self-reported alcohol use in the prior 30 days for the three respective grade levels were 11 percent, 28 percent, and 41 percent. By contrast, in 2000, these respective last 30-day prevalence rates were 22 percent, 41 percent, and 50 percent. Consistent with these findings are those reported in the National Household Survey on Drug Use and Health that indicate decreases in heavy episodic or binge drinking for birth cohorts born in the 1990s relative to birth cohorts born previously, going back as far as the 1950s (Keyes and Miech 2013). The number of drinking-and-driving traffic fatalities involving 16- to 20-year-olds also has decreased from 5,244 in 1982 (which accounted for 66 percent of traffic fatalities) to 1,262 in 2010 (which corresponded to 37 percent of traffic fatalities) (Hingson and White 2014; Voas et al. 2012). These U.S. national epidemiologic findings are encouraging in that the historical trends indicate decreases and, in some instances (e.g., traffic fatalities), substantial decreases in alcohol use and adverse consequences among young people.

The bad news is despite these reductions in the overall prevalence of alcohol use among early adolescents and youth, alcohol remains the substance of choice among early adolescents and youth and still is used by a majority of youth. The table summarizes 2012 U.S. national findings for alcohol use from the Monitoring the Future survey (Johnston et al. 2013). Although historically the prevalence of alcohol use may be decreasing, the rates still are quite high for heavier use, with almost one-quarter of 12th graders reporting binge drinking (i.e., 5 or more drinks in a row in the past 2 weeks) and almost one-half of 12th graders and more than one-quarter of 10th graders reporting being drunk in the past 12 months. The prevalence of any use in the past year also remained high for 10th and 12th graders, and almost one-quarter of 8th graders reported past-year use. The findings in the table also indicate the high prevalence of using flavored alcohol beverages, especially among 8th graders. The ratio (translated to a percentage) of using any flavored alcohol beverages in the past 30 days and any use of alcohol in the past 30 days was 52 percent for 12th graders, 59 percent for 10th graders, and 69 percent for 8th graders. Hence, relatively new alcohol products in the market place, such as those with sweet flavoring, seem to be among the alcohol beverages of choice, especially among early adolescents (i.e., 8th graders), although high rates also were reported by 10th and 12th graders.

Gender differences for the alcohol use indicators in the table tend to reflect a high degree of convergence across sexes, especially among 8th and 10th graders. Among 8th graders, girls reported higher levels than boys for the prevalence of alcohol use during the past 12 months and past 30 days, a higher prevalence of using flavored alcohol beverages, and a higher prevalence of binge drinking in the past 2 weeks and having been drunk in the past 12 months. Among 10th graders, the prevalence across alcohol indicators is similar across gender groups, with the exception that girls used more flavored alcohol beverages. Among 12th graders, a higher percentage of boys than girls reported engaging in heavier drinking (i. …

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