Survey shows underage drinkers get alcohol from adults, younger girls drinking more than boys

A nationwide survey, being released today by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA), shows that more than half of the teens surveyed admitted to underage drinking and 40% of those teens got free alcohol from an adult. Among the youngest teens, girls were found to drink slightly more than boys, consistent with other findings of girls catching up to boys when it comes to underage drinking. (Read “Gender Equality in Teenagers Not Always Good for Girls”)

The survey asked detailed questions about the behavior and social situations involved in underage drinking and is based on combined data from the 2002 – 2006 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) involving responses from 158,000 people ages 12 – 20 throughout the United States.

Notable findings included:

• More than half (53.9%) of all people aged 12 – 20 engaged in underage drinking in their lifetime, ranging from 11.0% of 12 year olds to 85.5% of 20 year olds.

• An average of 3.5 million people aged 12 – 20 each year (9.4%) meet the diagnostic criteria for having an alcohol use disorder (dependence or abuse).

• About 1 in 5 people in this age group (7.2 million people) have engaged in binge drinking – consuming 5 or more drinks on at least one occasion in the past month.

• Rates of current and binge alcohol use among 12 – 20 year olds were higher in the Northeast and Midwest than in the South or West.

• Over half (53.4%) of underage current alcohol users were at someone else’s home when they had their last drink, and 30.3% were in their own home; 9.4% were at a restaurant, bar or club.

• Among youths aged 12 – 14 the rate of current drinking was higher for females (7.7%) than males (6.3%), about equal for females and males among those aged 15 – 17 (27.6% and 27.3%, respectively), and lower for females than males among those aged 18 to 20 (47.9% vs. 54.4%)

• The vast majority of current underage drinkers (80.9%) reported being with two or more people the last time they drank. Those who were with two or more people consumed an average of 4.9 drinks on that occasion, compared with 3.1 drinks for those who were with one other person and 2.9 drinks for those who were alone.

• Rates of binge drinking are significantly higher among young people living with a parent who engaged in binge drinking within the past year.

“In far too many instances parents directly enable their children’s underage drinking — in essence encouraging them to risk their health and well-being,” said acting Surgeon General Steven K. Galson. “Proper parental guidance alone may not be the complete solution to this devastating public health problem — but it is a critical part.”

The findings from this study are being incorporated into the Underage Drinking Prevention campaign, an ongoing public outreach effort by the Office of the Surgeon General, SAMHSA and the Ad Council encouraging parents to speak with their children early and often about the negative effects of underage drinking. Find out more about this campaign at

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From this blog: New Study Shows Parents Are Giving Kids Their First Alcoholic Drinks

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