Frequent binge drinking declining but not equally for all teens

Frequent binge drinking (FBD) among youth in the US has been on the decline since 1991. Between 1991 and 1998, 5% of young teens (age 13) and 20% of older teens (age 18) said they had 5 or more drinks in a row on at least 2 occasions in the last 2 weeks. By 2007-2015, less than 3% of young teens and less than 15% of older teens said so.


2017-06-23 Jang - frequent binge drinking declines teens 1991-2015 IMG00


However, these declines are slowing down disproportionately for black, female, and lower-SES youth, according to a new study by YSI researcher Bohyun Joy Jang and colleagues. Black teens have had the lowest rates of FBD among all racial groups for decades but since 2007 their FBD rates are not decreasing as fast as those of other groups. The difference in heavy drinking rates between black and white teens is shrinking.


2017-06-23 Jang - frequent binge drinking declines teens 1991-2015 IMG01


Similarly, teen girls and young women seem to be catching up to their male counterparts as female and male FBD rates for teens are converging. This convergence is due to greater declines in boys’ FBD than in girls’ FBD in recent years.


2017-06-23 Jang - frequent binge drinking declines teens 1991-2015 IMG02 (1)


Dr. Jang also finds that FBD rates are declining faster for higher SES youth than for lower SES youth. In recent years, the risk of FBD is increasing for teens whose parents have had no college education, compared to teens with college-educated parents.


Other findings:


Since 1991, FBD has decreased among adolescents independently of age effects or birth cohort effects.


How much teen FBD has declined in the past 25 years is driven by period effects (factors that influence all age groups simultaneously, like national policy change) and sometimes cohort effects (influences on certain birth cohorts, like greater disapproval of heavy drinking among some cohorts).


Teens born between 1985 and 1990 (13 years old in 1998-2003 and 18 years old in 2003-2008) saw the highest declines in FBD, compared to cohorts that came before and after.


The findings are based on surveys gathered from over 1 million US teen participants in the Monitoring the Future study from 1991 through 2015. Monitoring the Future is funded by the                      National Institute on Drug Abuse.


Dr. Jang’s paper Frequent binge drinking among US adolescents, 1991 to 2015 is published in the June 2017 issue of Pediatrics. See also the UM News Service press release.



Infographics credit: Carola Carlier, University of Michigan