20 percent of high school seniors are binge drinkers, study finds
Downing five or more alcoholic drinks in one sitting is normal for high school seniors these days, according to a new study published in JAMA Pediatrics.
The research, conducted by a team from the University of Michigan, stated that adolescent alcohol consumption is a public health problem in the US. Long-term health effects like brain alterations, liver damage and dependence are all serious concerns for this population.
Megan E. Patrick and colleagues analyzed the predictors and prevalence of binge drinking (five or more drinks for men, four or more for women) and extreme binge drinking (10 or 15 drinks in a row) among high school seniors. The sample included 16,332 students: 52.3 percent female, 64.5 percent white, 11 percent black, 13.1 percent Hispanic and 11.5 percent of other races or ethnicities.
Results showed that 20.2 percent of all high school seniors binge drank in the past two weeks, and 10.5 percent reported extreme binge drinking.
Men were more likely than young women to binge drink, and white students were more likely to engage in this behavior than blacks. Interestingly, students who had college-educated parents were more likely to binge drink, but less likely to extreme binge drink.
The authors noted that while binge drinking has been on the decline since the late 1970s, extreme binge drinking has not decreased since 2005.
"The documented rates of extreme binge drinking, and the fact that they have not changed across recent historical time, support the need for additional research to develop effective prevention and intervention strategies to reduce high-risk alcohol behaviors of youth," the study stated.
In an editorial from experts at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Ralph W. Hingson and Aaron White write:
Research is needed to identify the predictors of extreme consumption of 15 or more drinks on an occasion and the consequences of this behavior, as well as ways to prevent such high-consumption occasions. Patrick et al identified several predictors.
Community interventions that include parental and school involvement are critical for preventing binge drinking, Hingson and White stressed.
"Measures of extreme consumption [10 or more or 15 or more drinks] need to be routinely included in prevention studies so researchers can identify what types of interventions also reduce extreme drinking occasions or whether new approaches warrant investigation," they wrote.