Drinking by High School Seniors Drops

Research from the federally funded Monitoring the Future annual survey of 50,000 students across the U.S. reveals declines in alcohol consumption by high school seniors. 1

Over the past seven years the proportion of high school seniors who have consumed:

  • any alcohol during their lifetime
    - has dropped 6%
  • any alcohol during the past year
    - has dropped 6%
  • any alcohol during the past 30 days
    - has dropped 9%
  • any alcohol during any 20 of the past 30 days (so-called “daily drinking“)
    - has dropped 28%
  • 5 or more drinks on an occasion at least
    once during past two weeks (sometimes
    termed “binge drinking”)
    - has dropped 7%

These results are consistent with other research reporting that drinking among young people continues to drop.

For example, the proportion of young people aged 12 through 17 who have consumed any alcohol during the previous month has plummeted from 50% in 1979 to 17.6 in 2002, according to the federal government's annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Thus, while one in two were drinkers in 1979, fewer than one in five were in 2002, the most recent year for which statistics are available. 2

Similarly, college student drinking attracts much attention in the press. But the proportion of college freshmen who drink continues to decrease. Freshmen entering college in 2003 reported the lowest rates of drinking in the 38-year history of the national college Freshman Survey. The proportion reporting occasional or frequent beer drinking dropped to an historic low of 44.8%, down from 73.7% in 1982. Consumption of both wine and distilled spirits also dropped to a record low. 3


1. Johnston, L. D., O'Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G. & Schulenberg, J. E. (December 21, 2004). Overall teen drug use continues gradual decline; but use of inhalants rises. University of Michigan News and Information Services: Ann Arbor, MI. [On-line]. Available: www.monitoringthefuture.org

2. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2010). Results from the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Volume I. Summary of National Findings (Office of Applied Studies, NSDUH Series H-38A, HHS Publication No. SMA 10-4586Findings). Rockville, MD.

3. Weise, Elizabeth. Polls: young non-drinkers up in down economy. USA Today, February 7, 2011.