Binge drinking among youths and young adults in the united states: 1979-2006

Richard A. Grucza, Karen E. Norberg, Laura J. Bierut

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

137 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE:: To evaluate trends in the past 30-day prevalence of binge drinking by age, sex, and student status, among youths and young adults in the United States between 1979 and 2006, a period that encompasses the federally mandated transition to a uniform legal drinking age of 21 years, and other policy changes aimed at curbing underage drinking. METHOD:: Data were analyzed from 20 administrations of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, yielding a pooled sample of more than 500,000 subjects. Trends in relative risk for four different age groups, stratified by sex, relative to the 24- to 34-year-old reference group were calculated. We also examined trends in risk for binge drinking associated with student status (among college-age students) and race/ethnicity. RESULTS:: Significant reductions in relative risk for binge drinking over time were observed for 12- to 20-year-old males, but no changes were observed for females in this age range, and binge drinking among minority females increased. Risk for binge drinking increased among 21- to 23-year-old women, with college women outpacing nonstudents in this age range. Trends also indicate that no reduction in binge drinking occurred for college men. CONCLUSIONS:: Although the overall trend is toward lower rates of binge drinking among youths, likely a result of a higher legal drinking age and other changes in alcohol policy, little improvement has occurred for college students, and increases in binge drinking among women has offset improvements among youths. Understanding these specific demographic trends will help inform prevention efforts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)692-702
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2009


  • Alcohol
  • Binge drinking
  • Epidemiology
  • Trends


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