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Underage Drinking Hits Record Low Levels

Reaching 25-year record low levels among all three grades, alcohol consumption among the nation’s youth continues to gradually decline according to the 2016 Monitoring the Future Survey. Less than one in four 8th graders report consuming alcohol in their lifetime, less than half of 10th graders have ever consumed alcohol and a six out of ten 12th graders say they have consumed alcohol. Many of the noted decreases in youth consumption from 2015 to 2016 were statistically significant especially among eighth and tenth grade students.

Among students in the grades 8, 10 and 12 combined, the majority (58 percent) have never consumed alcohol in their lifetime indicating a continuing delay in the onset of drinking among America’s youth. The percentage of students who reported ever consuming alcohol decreased 48%, proportionally, from 1991 to 2016, and 26% over the past decade.


          Click on image to enlarge infographic*

Current alcohol consumption and binge drinking (consuming 5 or more drinks in a row on at least one occasion) continued to trend downward in 2016. For all three grades levels current consumption and binge drinking are at their lowest levels in the history of the Monitoring the Future study.

  • Seven percent of 8th graders consumed alcohol in the past month; a statistically significant decline in current consumption from 2015 to 2016.
  • Twenty percent of 10th graders report they consumed alcohol in past 30-days.
  • One-third (33%) of 12th graders self-report consuming alcohol in the past month.

The 2016 survey data also revealed a statistically significant drop in binge drinking among 8th graders and a reduction of nearly 50 percent or more in the prevalence of binge drinking at each grade level since 1991.

  • Only 3 percent of 8th graders report binge drinking down 69 percent since 1991.
  • Among 10th graders binge drinking fell 54 percent from 21 percent in 1991 to 10 percent in 2016.
  • Binge drinking among high school seniors fell to a record low of 16 percent, down 48 percent over the past 25 years.
  • Among high school seniors, the prevalence of “extreme binge drinking,” defined as drinking 10 or more drinks in a row or even 15 or more, declined in 2016. Extreme binge drinking of 10 or more drinks among 12th graders declined 58 percent from 10.6 percent in 2005 (the first year measured) to 4.4 percent in 2016.

Peer disapproval and perceived risk of binge drinking continues to increase among American teens. At the same time, the study reports that the ease of access to alcohol continues to decrease. Each of these variables may play a contributing role in the noted declines in underage alcohol consumption.

Maureen Dalbec, Vice President of Research at, and her husband are proud parents of two college age children. In her free time she enjoys running and swimming and occasionally competing in triathlons as well as volunteering in her community.

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