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Fewer US High Schoolers Drink, Yet Binge Drinking Still Common: Study

13 May 2017, 6:21 am EDT By Alexandra Lozovschi Tech Times
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Teen drinking has decreased in the last 20 years, from almost half of high school students in the '90s to only about a third of teens in 2015. However, teenage binge drinking remains a major concern, just like underage drinking.  ( Scott Olson | Getty Images )

Teen drinking has dropped in the last two decades, shows the latest report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The study, featured in May 12 issue of the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, revealed only one in three high schoolers reported drinking at least one drink per month in 2015, rounding up the total of teenage drinkers at just 32.8 percent.

By comparison, almost half high school students reported the same thing back in 1991, when teen drinking prevalence was as high as almost 50.8 percent.

The CDC study examined data from the national Youth Risk Behavior Surveys, a self-administered questionnaire that high school students complete each year. Between 1991 and 2015, the number of survey participants ranged from 10,904 to 16,410.

However, since the questionnaire only includes teenagers enrolled in school, the researchers note their result may not be representative of all American teens.

Binge Drinking Among High School Students

The downside is, however, the high school teens who reported drinking — albeit considerably fewer in number than 20 years ago — are now also more inclined to binge drink.

"Despite progress, current and binge drinking remain common among high school students, and many students who binge drink do so at high intensity," the authors write in their report.

Of all the students who reported drinking, 57.8 percent said they have had five drinks in a row, while 43.8 percent of the teenagers who admitted they binge drink disclosed they had had at least eight drinks in one sitting.

The study also found binge drinkers were about three times more likely than non-drinking students to give someone money to purchase alcohol (31 percent compared with 9 percent) or to purchase alcohol themselves (9 percent compared to 3 percent).

At the same time, the CDC report mentions most high school drinkers who didn't binge drink obtained alcohol from someone who gave it to them.

Nevertheless, teenage binge drinking has declined in the past two decades, from nearly 32 percent of teens in 1999 to almost 18 percent of teen students in 2015.

The Problem Of Underage Drinking

According to the CDC report, one of the reasons why teen drinking rates are now lower has to do with the tighter state policies aimed at preventing underage drinking.

But in spite of the decline in teenage drinking, heavy alcohol consumption in adolescence is still a major concern, says the CDC.

The study documents that, between 2006 and 2010, excessive underage drinking accounted for nearly 4,300 deaths a year.

On its website, the CDC lists a number of problems that derive from underage drinking, including school absence, poor academic achievements, higher likelihood of violence, risky sexual behavior, increased risk of drug abuse, as well as alcohol-related car crashes and other unintentional injuries, such as burns, falls, and drowning.

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