Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Alcohol use among teens decreasing

Monitoring the Future is an ongoing national study of the "behaviors, attitudes, and values" of American youth. The organization has been collecting data since 1975.

The 2008 Monitoring the Future study shows that alcohol use among teens has decreased 40% since it peaked in the 1990's.

According to the Underage Drinking Enforcement Training Center,
The study indicates that the decline in use among 8th graders may well be linked to a decline in reported availability. The report stated that in 1996, 8th graders reported that 75 percent could find alcohol if they wanted to, but the 2008 numbers show just 64 percent could gain access to alcohol. The report further stated that declines are smaller for older students. (link)
The full study is available here.

If you'd like to keep these numbers going down, or are concerned about underage drinking, find out about your local prevention coalition, or contact 21 Reasons in Portland, ME.


  1. I realize that anecdotal case evidence is not as valid as empirical research, but as a clinical psychologist who works with children, adolescents, and families from a variety of backgrounds, socio-economic status, and mental health functioning, I am astounded at the reported decrease in alcohol use by this study. I am not questioning the investigators, nor their data-I just don't see the decrease in teen alcohol use in real life. I also don't hear from the kids I work with, that it is that difficult to get alcohol. They seem to have clever and resourceful ways to get what they want.
    -Dr. Michael Osit
    Psychologist/Author: Generation Text: Raising Well Adjusted Kids In An Age Of Instant Everything

  2. Dr. Osit:

    Thanks so much for your comment, and for the work that you’re doing to improve the lives of youth. I think that some of the discrepancy that you’re noticing could have to do with variations depending on the region in which you live. In our state (Maine), for example, 46% of Maine 8th graders report that it would be easy or very easy for them to access alcohol. That’s significantly different from the national average of 64%. However, our data also shows a decrease in these numbers in the past decade.

    We have also found that there is some perception gap between what youth see happening and what the statistics say. This could be due to the difficulty of changing social norms and perceptions. Just last week we spoke with a high school class at an alternative education program whose students had difficulty believing that more than half of their peers don’t drink at all—but their perceptions were influenced by the people in their immediate peer circle, not the actions of the entire population.

    At 21 Reasons, we work on a few environmental factors to combat a positive perception of alcohol among youth. First, we work with the business community to urge them to responsibly market their product. Secondly, we work with the adults in our community in order to raise their awareness of their role in modeling positive ways to cope with life’s many stresses and disappointments. As a wonderful compliment to the environmental approach is the vital part providers such as yourself play on working with individuals needing treatment and assistance.

    Access and teen drinking is absolutely still an issue, and we still have a lot of work to do! But overall, it seems that we might be getting close to a significant cultural shift in the acceptability & availability of alcohol to youth—and that is very good news.