The prevalence of underage alcohol use has been studied extensively, but binge drinking among youth in the United States is not yet well understood. In particular, adolescents may drink much larger amounts than the threshold (5 drinks) often used in definitions of binge drinking. Delineating various levels of binge drinking, including extreme levels, and understanding predictors of such extreme binge drinking among youth will benefit public health efforts.
To examine the prevalence and predictors of 5+ (≥5 drinks) binge drinking and of 10+ (≥10 drinks) and 15+ (≥15 drinks) extreme binge drinking among 12th graders in the United States.
Design, Setting, and Participants
A nonclinical nationally representative sample of high school seniors in the annual Monitoring the Future study between 2005 and 2011. The sample included 16 332 high school seniors (modal age, 18 years) in the United States. Response rates were 79.1% to 84.7%.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Prevalence of consuming 5 or more, 10 or more, and 15 or more drinks in a row in the last 2 weeks.
Between 2005 and 2011, a total of 20.2% of high school seniors reported 5+ binge drinking, 10.5% reported 10+ extreme binge drinking, and 5.6% reported 15+ extreme binge drinking in the last 2 weeks. Rates of 5+ binge drinking and 10+ extreme binge drinking have declined since 2005, but rates of 15+ extreme binge drinking have not significantly declined. Students with college-educated parents were more likely to consume 5 or more drinks but were less likely to consume 15 or more drinks than students whose parents were not college educated. Students from more rural areas were more likely than students from large metropolitan areas to consume 15 or more drinks. Substance-related attitudes, socializing with substance-using peers, the number of evenings out with friends, and other substance use (cigarettes and marijuana) predicted all 3 levels of binge and extreme binge drinking.
Conclusions and Relevance
Binge drinking at the traditionally defined 5+ drinking level was common among high school seniors representative of all 12th graders in the contiguous United States. A significant segment of students also reported extreme binge drinking at levels 2 and 3 times higher. These data suggest the importance of assessing multiple levels of binge drinking behavior and their predictors among youth to target effective screening and intervention efforts.