Underage Drinking & the Law

What parents need to know now about the new Social Host Laws

1991-2012 Trends in Alcohol Use by Grades 8, 10 and 12

Down, down, down

Over the past twenty years, alcohol use by 8th, 10th and 12th graders has dropped and has continued to drop by astounding amounts.

These results are from the December 2012  Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey which is conducted annually by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research since its inception in 1975 and is supported under a series of investigator-initiated, competing research grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The MTF studies don’t differentiate between social drinking, religious uses and alcohol education by parents at the dinner table.

Today’s middle- and high-school students are significantly better behaved than their predecessors when it comes to drinking alcohol.

2012 30-day Use Chart

When asked if they’ve had a drink in the past 30 days (a drink is defined as more than two or three sips on any occasion, including religious), the majority say, “No”, including the high-school seniors. We’re happy to announce that 2012 saw the smallest number of 8th graders trying alcohol in the past month. While past month use by sophomores and seniors has grown a small amount between 2011 and 2012,  the 2012 rates are still the second and third lowest use of alcohol by those students over the 37 years the study has been conducted. For the past twenty years, we’ve seen the 30-day measure fall by 19.1 percent among seniors, 30.8 percent among sophomores and a whopping 57.9 percent among eighth-graders.

When measuring drinking rates in the past year and ever (lifetime use), we see more good news. However, the longer the period of time measured, the higher rates we expect to see, especially when studying lifetime use. Few of us are stunned when the answer to the question, “Have you ever had a drink?” is “Yes.” Once again, the 2012 study results demonstrates the historically lowest percent of high school students drinking.

2012 Annual Use ChartRates of alcohol use over the past year are also the lowest we’ve ever measured. When asked if they had had a drink over the past year, under two-thirds of seniors, under half of sophomores and under a quarter of eighth-graders answered “Yes.” Over the past twenty years, 17 percent fewer 12th graders, 31 percent fewer 10th graders and 56 percent fewer 8th graders have ever had more than two or three sips of alcohol.

2012 Lifetime Use Chart

When asked if they have ever had a drink in their lifetime, under 30 percent of 8th graders, just over half of 10th graders and just over two-thirds of 12th graders answered “Yes.” These are not binge drinking rates, these are a measure of exposure to at least a few ounces of wine, beer or harder stuff. To put those numbers in perspective, since 1992 the measure has dropped by 57.4 percent for 8th graders (40 point drop), 34.4 for 10th graders(28 point drop) and 20.7 for 12th graders (18 point drop).

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