Alcohol Drinking by High School Students Drops

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report a continuing decline in alcoholic beverage consumption and alcohol abuse by high school students in the U.S. Over the past 12 years, the agency's the nation-wide surveys have found significant decreases in alcohol consumption among the nation's youth. The proportion of high school students who have ever had a drink dropped slightly over 5% between 1995 and 2007. Other measures of drinking have declined much more.

  1. High School Students who have had at Least One Drink in Previous 30 Days is down:
    • 1995 51.6%
    • 2001 47.1% down arrow Down 13% in 12 years
    • 2007 44.7%
  2. High School Students Who Consumed Five or More Drinks on an Occasion in Previous 30 Days is Down:
    • 1995 32.6%
    • 2001 29.9% down arrow Down over 20%
    • 2007 26.0%
  3. High School Students Who Had Their First Drink Other Than a Few Sips Before the Age of 13 is Down.
    • 1995 32.4%
    • 2001 29.1% down arrow Down 30%
    • 2007 22.8%
  4. High School Students Who Consumed at Least One Drink on School Property in Previous 30 Days is Down.
    • 1995 6.3%
    • 2001 4.9% down arrow Down 35%
    • 2007 4.1%
  5. High School Students Who Rode in a Car Driven by Someone Who Had Been Drinking (in Previous 30 Days) is Down.
    • 1995 38.8%
    • 2001 30.7% down arrow Down 25%
    • 2007 29.1%
  6. High School Students Who Drove a Car When they Had Been Drinking (in Previous 30 Days) is Down.
    • 1995 15.4%
    • 2001 13.3% down arrow Down 32%
    • 2007 10.5%

These statistics reflect dramatic improvement, but there are still too many high school students engaging in dangerous drinking behaviors. We can and must do more to prevent needless tragedies.

Students typically hold exaggerated beliefs about how many students really drink, how often they drink, and how much they drink. They tend to believe that "everyone's doing it" and feel pressure to conform to that undesirable behavior. When surveys of actual student behavior are conducted on campus and the actual, lower numbers are widely reported or marketed, people no longer feel the need to live up to some imagined false norm of behavior.

Research has repeatedly demonstrated that the technique, known as social norms marketing, is effective, that it is relatively inexpensive to implement, and that the positive results tend to occur quickly.


  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Healthy Schools. Healthy Youth!. Division of Adolescent and School Health, 2008. (