How Many US High Schoolers Binge Drink?

People clinking beer bottles at home.
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Teen drinking has dropped in recent decades, but still about one-third of U.S. high schoolers say they drink alcohol, and one in six say they binge drink, according to a new report.

The study, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, analyzed information from a yearly survey of high school students, conducted from 1991 to 2015.

In 2015, about 33 percent of high schoolers said they consumed at least one alcoholic drink in the last 30 days. That's down from 51 percent of high schoolers who reported drinking alcohol in the last 30 days in the 1991 survey.

In addition, the percentage of high schoolers who said they binge drank — meaning they consumed at least five alcohol drinks within a couple of hours — dropped from 31 percent in 1991 to about 18 percent in 2015. [Here's How Much Alcohol Is OK to Drink in 19 Countries]

But, concerningly, more than half of high schoolers who reported recent alcohol consumption in 2015 were binge drinkers. And of those who binge drank, about 44 report said they consumed eight or more drinks in a row. Binge drinking increases a person's risk of harms from alcohol, such as unintentional injuries, alcohol poisoning and violent behavior, the researchers said.

"Despite progress, current drinking and binge drinking are common among high school students, and many students who binge drink do so at high intensity," the researchers wrote in the May 12 issue of the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Strategies such as increasing taxes on alcohol and regulating the number of outlets that can sell alcohol in a given area may help reduce underage drinking and the harms from it, the researchers said.

The study also found that most high school drinkers who didn't binge drink obtained alcohol from someone who gave it to them. Those who binge drank were about three times more likely to give someone money to purchase alcohol or to purchase alcohol themselves, compared to those who consumed alcohol but did not binge drink, the study results showed.

The researchers noted that the study involved only teens who attended high school, and so the findings may not be representative of all U.S. teens.

Original article on Live Science.

Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.