Drinking by Students Dropping to Historic New Lows in U.S.

Drinking by students and other young people continues to hit new lows. In fact, it has been for dropping for decades.

Yet most columnists, commentators, and journalists repeatedly suggest the problem is rising. And rising fast. So most people think that student drinking is increasing. Not only that, but they think that alcohol-related problems are on the rise. But they aren’t.


I.   Drinking by Students

II.  Perspective on Beliefs

III. Resources

IV.  References

I. Drinking by Students

The evidence is clear. The University of Michigan has been measuring student drinking for decades. Each year it surveys about 50,000 students in 8th, 10th, and 12th graders across the U.S. And the results consistent. Student drinking has declined greatly over time.

For example, look at the statistics on drinking among high school seniors.1

The proportion who have ever consumed alcohol is down (Fig 1).

High school seniors who have ever consumed alcohol
Figure 1.


Those who had alcohol during the previous year is down (Fig 2).

High school seniors who have consumed alcohol within the previous year
Figure 2.


The proportion who had alcohol during previous 30 days is down (Fig 3).

High school seniors who have consumed alcohol within previous 30 days
Figure 3.


High school seniors who recently had alcohol daily is down (Fig 4).

High school seniors who have recently consumed alcohol daily
Figure 4.


The proportion who consumed five or more drinks on an occasion within previous two weeks is down (Fig 5).

High school seniors who have consumed 5+ drinks in 2 weeks
Figure 5.

drinking by studentsThe situation is the same for students in the eighth and tenth grades as well. It’s the same for college and university students. And it’s the same for other young adults. The proportion who drink has dropped for decades. So has the proportion who drink heavily.2

The trend for well over four decades is the same. Down. Down. And down even more.

II. Perspective on Beliefs

The Belden Tribune (NM) reported that alcohol sales to minors are a serious problem throughout the entire state. The editor expressed outrage.  “[T]he sheriff should catch one or two of these lawbreakers and have them hauled up before the court.” That would serve as an example to others who are exploiting young people. He also urged parents to help to law enforcement authorities. They could do that by identifying those who are providing alcohol to underage drinkers.3

The Belden Tribune published this in 1909.

III. Resources on Drinking by Students

IV. References

    1. Miech, R. National Adolescent Drug Trends.
    2. Ibid.
    3. Melzer, R. Animal cruelty, drought, schools. Things never change, at least if you’re reading the newspapers. The News-Bulletin, Feb 21, 2014