Stay up to date with

Underage Drinking Among American Youth At Lowest Recorded Level Since 1991

Underage Drinking Among American Youth At Lowest Recorded Level Since 1991 

Fewer American teens are consuming alcohol underage than ever before, as noted by an unprecedented decrease in all underage drinking prevalence rates measured in 2021 from the previous year according to the just released 2021 Monitoring the Future survey. Lifetime, annual, current and binge drinking prevalence rates showed significant decreases from 2020 to 2021 among students in 10th and 12th grades; among 8th grade students significant decreases were noted in past month and binge drinking lifetime and past year consumption rates remained stable.  

Among teens in grades 8, 10, and 12 combined, more than six out of ten (64 percent) report they have never consumed alcohol in their lifetime. Over the past decade, and 17 percent from 2020, clear indications of success in delaying the onset of underage drinking. 

  • Lifetime consumption among 8th graders has declined 69 percent, proportionally, since data was first collected in 1991 from 70 percent to 22 percent. 
  • About two-thirds (65 percent) of 10th graders have not consumed alcohol in their lifetime, a decrease of 59 percent, proportionally, from 1991. A significant decrease in lifetime consumption was noted among 10th grade students from 2020 to 2021. 
  • Forty-six percent of high school seniors report they have never consumed alcohol, falling 39 percent from a high of 88 percent in 1991. Reaching an historic low level in 2021, a significant decrease was noted in lifetime consumption among 12th graders from the previous year. 

Of the survey respondents, 85 percent say they have not consumed alcohol in the past 30 days, which means only about one in seven youth self-report consuming alcohol in the past month. Current alcohol consumption among students in all three grade levels combined reached an all-time record low level (15 percent) in 2021, having declined 42 percent since 2012 and 62 percent since 1991. At the individual grade levels, statistically, significant declines were noted among all three grades between 2020 and 2021 


  • Past month consumption among 8th graders continues to experience modest but steady long-term declines. Seven percent of 8th graders report current alcohol consumption, having decreased 34 percent over the past ten years and 71 percent since 1991. 
  • Reporting a new historic low, one in five 10th graders report current alcohol consumption, declining 53 percent from 28 percent in 2012 and 69 percent since record keeping began in 1991 . 
  • Declining significantly in 2021, 13 percent of 10th graders are current drinkers, down 53 percent, proportionally, over the past decade from 28 percent in 2012 and 69 percent since record keeping began. 
  • Reporting a new historic low, one in four 12th graders report current alcohol consumption, declining 38 percent from 42 percent in 2012 and 52 percent since 1991. 

Similar to the other measures of consumption, the trend in binge drinking (defined as having five or more drinks in a row in the past two weeks) continues to decline reaching the lowest recorded point in 2021. Among students in 8th, 10th and 12th grades combined less than one in 10 students binge drink.  Seven percent of teens report engaging in binge drinking, declining 54 percent proportionally since 2012, and 67 percent compared to 1991.  

  • Less than three percent of 8th graders reported binge drinking in 2021, a decrease of 45 percent from 2012 to 2021 and 74 percent proportionally since 1991 
  • In 2021, six percent of 10th graders said they engaged in binge drinking, down 62 percent from 16 percent in 2012. 
  • One in eight 12th graders (12 percent) report consuming five or more drinks in a row, a 50 percent drop from 24 percent in 2012, and 60 percent decrease from 1991. 

Unfortunately, a majority of students in all three grade levels do not perceive there to be a great risk associated with drinking underage. However, peer disapproval of binge drinking remains high among 8th, 10th and 12th graders in 2021. Ease of access to alcohol among students continues to decline, reaching record low levels among teen cohorts in 8th, 10th, and 12th grades.  The Monitoring the Future survey researchers noted that these variables and the prevalence rates in 2021 suggest both cessation and decrease in initiation of underage drinking in 2021 and that they play a contributing role in the long-term trends in underage alcohol consumption. through its investment in in effective risk and prevention initiatives and campaigns over the past 30 years has made a significant contribution to these long-term trends and remains committed to lead efforts to eliminate underage drinking. 

Receive the Latest News and Research

Welcome to! We’d love to have you as part of our community. We send updates on how you can help end drunk driving, prevent underage drinking, and make responsible choices about alcohol. Get our news straight to your inbox.

No Thanks