Publication Date:

Oct 04, 2018

Key facts about binge drinking

  • Since 1991, rates for binge drinking have dropped across all grade levels and continue to decline; in 2017, 17 percent of twelfth graders reported binge drinking in the last two weeks, compared with 30 percent in 1991.
  • In eighth and tenth grades, males and females report roughly equal rates of binge drinking; however, by twelfth grade, males have a higher rate of binge drinking than their female peers, at 19 and 15 percent, respectively.
  • In eighth grade, Hispanic students are more likely to report binge drinking than non-Hispanic white students. However, by twelfth grade, non-Hispanic white students are more likely to binge drink than Hispanic students, at 20 and 14 percent, respectively. Non-Hispanic black students report a lower rate of binge drinking than both Hispanic and non-Hispanic white students across all grade levels.

Trends in binge drinking

Binge drinking is defined as the act of imbibing five or more alcoholic drinks in a row. The proportion of twelfth graders who report binge drinking at least once in the past two weeks peaked in the early 1980s, at 41 percent, before falling sharply through the rest of that decade and into the early 1990s, except for a small increase from 1985 to 1987. The rate of binge drinking among twelfth graders slightly rose again in the 1990s, from a low of 30 percent in 1991 to a high of 32 percent in 1998, before resuming a downward trend throughout the last two decades. From 2000 to 2017, the proportion of students in eighth, tenth, and twelfth grades who reported binge drinking declined by 68, 59, and 45 percent, respectively (Appendix 1).

Differences by age

Twelfth graders are more than four times as likely to report heavy drinking as eighth graders. In 2017, 17 percent of twelfth graders reported binge drinking, compared with 10 percent of tenth graders and 4 percent of eighth graders (Appendix 1).[1]

Differences by gender

In the eighth and tenth grades, roughly equal proportions of males and females engage in binge drinking. However, by twelfth grade, males are more likely to binge drink than their female peers (19 and 15 percent, respectively, in 2017) (Appendix 1).

Differences by race and Hispanic origin[2]

In 2017, Hispanic students at all three grade levels had higher rates of binge drinking than non-Hispanic black students. In eighth grade, non-Hispanic white and non-Hispanic black students were equally likely to report binge drinking, while in tenth and twelfth grades, binge drinking was more prevalent among non-Hispanic white students. In addition, in eighth grade, non-Hispanic white students had a lower rate of binge drinking than Hispanic students (3 and 5 percent, respectively); by twelfth grade, though, non-Hispanic white students were more likely to report binge drinking (20 and 14 percent, respectively). In tenth grade, Hispanic and non-Hispanic white students were equally likely to report binge drinking, at 11 percent (Appendix 1).

Differences by college plans

Students are less likely to report binge drinking if they plan to complete four or more years of college than if they have no such plans. For instance, in 2017, 9 percent of tenth graders who planned to complete four years of college reported binge drinking, compared with 15 percent among those without such plans. This relationship is also evident in eighth and twelfth grades. Among eighth graders, 8 percent of students not planning to complete college report binge drinking, compared with 3 percent of those who do plan to complete four years of college; among twelfth graders, the corresponding figures were 21 and 16 percent, respectively (Appendix 1).

Other estimates

State and local estimates

Note: Estimates of drug use from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), used to generate these state-level estimates, are generally lower than estimates generated by the Monitoring the Future Survey (MTF). Since the MTF was the source of the national estimates presented in this indicator, users should not make direct comparisons of estimates made from the two sources. For information on methodological differences in the surveys that may be causing these differences in estimates, see: Harrison, L. D. (2001). Understanding the differences in youth drug prevalence rates produced by the MTF, NHSDA, and YRBS studies. Journal of Drug Issues, 31(3), 665–694.

International estimates

International estimates of lifetime and 30-day binge drinking incidences are available from the European School Survey on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD) 2015 report, available at http://www.espad.org/report/situation/alcohol-use.

Data and appendices

Data source

Johnston, L. D., Miech, R. A., O’Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., Schulenberg, J. E., et al. (2018). Demographic subgroup trends among adolescents in the use of various licit and illicit drugs, 1975–2017 (Monitoring the Future Occasional Paper No. 90) [Tables 102–104]. Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan, Institute for Social Research. Retrieved from http://monitoringthefuture.org/pubs/occpapers/mtf-occ90.pdf.

Raw data source

The Monitoring the Future Survey.
http://www.monitoringthefuture.org

Appendix

Appendix 1. Percentage of Students in Grades Eight, Ten, and Twelve Who Report Binge Drinking: Selected Years, 1976–2017

Background

Definition

Students were asked whether they had imbibed five or more drinks in a row at least once in the two-week period prior to the survey. Youth who have dropped out of school and students who were absent on the day of the survey are not included in the results. For detailed analysis of how those omissions may affect results, see: Miech, R. A., Johnston, L. D., O’Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., Schulenberg, J. E., et al. (2018). Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use, 1975–2015, Volume I: Secondary school students [Appendix A]. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan, Institute for Social Research. Retrieved from http://www.monitoringthefuture.org/pubs/monographs/mtf-vol1_2017.pdf.

Endnotes

[1] There is reason to believe that eighth graders over-report binge drinking. For more information, see chapter 4, footnote 27 in Johnston, L. D., O’Malley, P. M., & Bachman, J. G. (2001). Monitoring the Future National Survey Results on Drug Use, 1975–2000, Volume 1: Secondary School Students (NIH Publication No. 01-4924). Bethesda, MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved from http://www.monitoringthefuture.org/pubs/monographs/vol1_2000.pdf.

[2] To derive percentages for each racial/ethnic subgroup, data for the specified year and the previous year have been combined to provide more stable estimates. Estimates for white and black youth exclude Hispanic youth and youth of two or more races. Hispanic youth include persons identifying as Mexican American or Chicano, Cuban American, Puerto Rican, or Other Hispanic or Latino, and no other racial/ethnic group.

Suggested Citation:

Child Trends Databank. (2018). Binge drinking. Available at: https://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=binge-drinking