Alcohol Drinking by Youth Continues to Drop in Western World

The popular belief is that there is a drinking epidemic among young people. In reality, alcohol drinking by youth continues to drop. Research in more prosperous parts of the world shows “solid evidence” of less drinking by young people since 2005. In fact, surveys in the U.S. and some other countries demonstrate drops in drinking by youth since about 1980. So these declines may largely be a continuation of earlier trends.

I.   The Study
II.  Controversies
III. Resources

Many changes in alcohol consumption patterns are hard to understand. For example, major shifts in beverage preferences occur over time without any clear explanation. The same is true about consumption levels. And in the proportion of abstainers.

Similarly, it’s unclear why drinking by youth continues to fall. That decline occurs in countries with very different cultures, alcohol laws, social norms, and alcohol policies. Thus, we know what has been happening but not why it’s been happening.

I. The Study

drinking by youthAnalysts reviewed the research evidence published during 2005-2017. The evidence suggests that drinking has dropped at all consumption levels. However, the highest consumers often tend to resist this pattern. This is consistent with much data since the 1980s.

The decrease is strong among those who are underage to drink. Surprisingly, it’s often higher among males. In some countries, disadvantaged youth resist the decline. However, African-American y oung people have rather consistently had higher rates of abstention and lower rates of consumption among drinkers.

Some people believe that the widespread use of digital devices has impacted consumption. Yet the authors found no evidence to support that belief.

Source. Pape, H. et al. Adolescents drink less: How, who and why? A review of the recent research literature. Drug Alc Rev, 2018. doi: 10.1111/dar.12695 (abstract online).

II. Controversies

Alcohol Harms Teen Brains: Effects of Drinking.

Early Onset of Drinking (Early First Drink of Alcohol) and Later Problems.

Age at First Intoxication More Important than Age at First Drink.

Early Puberty Predicts Early Alcohol Drinking and Intoxication.

Genetics and Early Age of Drinking.

III. Resources

Underage Drinking Statistics.

Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health.

Total Alcohol Consumption Per Capita.

Summary: Drinking by Youth

Alcohol drinking by young people in prosperous countries has declined.