Underage drinking by those under the age of 21 is considered a major health problem. That’s because alcohol is the most used and abused drug in the youth age demographics in the United States.
More kids under the age of 21 will drink alcohol than smoke cigarettes or use illegal drugs.
Those under the age of 21 are estimated to drink 11% of the total amount of alcohol that is consumed in the United States. More than 90% of this alcohol will be consumed in the form of binge drinking. This results in nearly 200k emergency room visits every year because of injuries or health conditions that are directly related to the consumption of alcohol.
- 39% of kids under the age of 21 have drank some amount of alcohol within the last 30 days.
- In the last month, 22% of kids admit to binge drinking at least once and 8% of them drove after drinking.
- 24% of kids admit that they have ridden with a driver that they knew had been drinking that day.
Kids are known for taking risky chances because they feel like they are invincible, but that is just a setup for failure. Although other nations have lower drinking ages than the United States, the data is clear that the younger demographics are the ones most likely to be involved in fatality crashes because of drunk driving and are more likely to binge drink. This creates a problem for parents and communities alike because only 1% of parents say they know their child has been binge drinking at least once. Whether it is from denial or just closed eyes, something has got to change.
What Are the Dangers of Underage Drinking?
- Kids who drink are more likely to have higher absence rates from school and have either poor or failing grades.
- Kids who drink are more likely to encounter legal problems, including unplanned or unwanted sexual activity.
- Kids who begin drinking before the age of 15 are 5 times more likely to develop alcohol dependency issues later on in life than those who begin drinking after the age of 21.
- 5,000 people under the age of 21 die each year because of alcohol-related car crashes.
- 72% of kids have consumed alcohol defined as at least one full drink by the end of high school.
- 37% of kids have consumed at least one drink by the end of 8th grade.
- Caucasian kids have the highest percentage of underage usage at 30.4%.
This isn’t a problem that affects other neighborhoods, other families, or other kids. The data is very clear. Kids from suburban families that are well off are more at risk for alcohol abuse than other kids. Maybe it is because there is a greater likelihood of having alcohol available or maybe it is considered a right of passage. Whatever the case may be, it is up to the parents and guardians of today’s children to make sure they are checking in on them so that there aren’t decisions being made today that will be regretted tomorrow.
There Is Something That Is Working
- The rate of kids drinking heavily on a regular basis dropped from 6.2% to 4.3%.
- It is believed that the creation of age 21 drinking laws has helped to save nearly 30k lives since it was implemented.
- Youth generally drink less often than adults do, but they do drink more alcohol when they choose to drink.
- 31.4% of kids report that they had their first drinks at home.
- 26% of those under the age of 21 who were driving under the influence had a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or higher.
- The Asian demographic is the least likely to binge drink while underage, with only 7.8% doing so. The African-American community was second with an 8.5% occurrence rate.
- The Asian demographic also had the lowest rate of past alcohol use in the last 30 days at 13.8%.
- 90% of teens say that drinking is not worth the consequences that can be caused by it.
Although some things sound bad or are getting worse when it comes to underage drinking, there are some good things that are happening as well. About 1 in 4 kids aren’t drinking to intoxication and those that are drinking heavily as kids are going down as well. Alcohol does have the power to shorten a kid’s lifespan by 60 years and those odds are increased with every drink, but with age also comes wisdom – at least statistically anyway. That’s why encouraging kids to wait until the age of 21 to drink is so important. It reduces riskier behaviors, the chances for long-term alcohol dependence, and other health risks. If you don’t drink, it’s difficult to drive drunk.
Here’s What You Need to Know Right Now
- The average boy has tried alcohol by the age of 11. For girls, the average age of a first drink is 13.
- In the last year studied, there were 189k emergency room visits by teens who had hurt themselves or had a health condition that alarmed them because of alcohol.
- 56% of drivers under the age of 21 who were driving while under the influence were killed because they didn’t put on a seat belt.
Alcohol is a leading factor in all three of the leading causes of death for those under the age of 21. That makes it vitally important to start talking to kids about the consequences of drinking at an early age. More than half of all kids say that they’ve tried their first drink at a home other than their own, which means not everything is known by today’s parents. Build relationships, work on trust, and show your kids these statistics so they can see for themselves just how dangerous drinking can be.