Frequent Binge Drinking Drops among U.S. Adolescents

The proportion of young people in the U.S. who drink alcohol has been declining since 1980. In addition, the amount each consumer drinks has also been going down over time. And fewer young people have been binge drinking. Now major research reports that frequent binge drinking has been dropping as well. And it’s been declining for about a quarter of a century.

The Study

The study examined the drinking behaviors of over one million (1,065,022) students. Importantly, the federal government funds this national representative sample of 8th, 10th, and 12th grade students. The samples were collected for 24 years as part of the Monitoring the Future annual survey.

Frequent Binge Drinking

The survey defines frequent binge drinking very specifically. It’s consuming five or more drinks in a row on two or more occasions during the past two weeks. Unfortunately, it doesn’t specify any length of time for the consumption to occur. For example, it can be over an entire day. Therefore, the definition doesn’t require a “binge drinker” to be intoxicated!

frequent binge drinking
A Binge Drinker?

The New York Times, alcohol researchers, and others have objected to the illogical nature of this definition. However, changing the definition now would create a serious problem. It would be impossible to compare the results over time. Thus, we’re stuck with a definition that magnifies the extent of bingeing.

The Findings

Frequent binge drinking among 8th, 10th, and 12th grade students has been dropping significantly over 24 years. It has also been dropping among sex, race, and socio-economic categories.

In addition, the declines among African-American have been somewhat slower, However, those rates were substantially lower to begin with. Also, there has also been a narrowing in the different rates for males and females. This continues a long-term trend in drinking behaviors between the sexes.

Source for Frequent Binge Drinking

Jang, J., et al. Frequent binge drinking among U.S. adolescents, 1991 to 2015. Pediat, 2017. PMID: 28562275

Popular Resources

Jarvinen, M. and Room, R. Youth Drinking CulturesLondon: Routledge, 2016.

Kiesbye, S. Should the Legal Drinking Age be Lowered? Detroit: Greenhaven, 2013.

Merino, N. Underage Drinking. Detroit: Greenhaven, 2009.

Newton, D. Youth Substance Abuse. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2016.

Scherer, L. Underage Drinking. Rosen, 2016.