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April’s Data Digest: Alcohol

Posted on April 3rd, 2019 in: Blog

This blog post, by our Research Analyst Erin Schwab, is part of a monthly series unpacking data from the 2017 YRBS survey and making connections to out-of-school time programming in Vermont.

April is Alcohol Awareness Month. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, one in 12 adults suffers from alcohol use disorder or alcohol dependence. In Vermont drinking often starts young: as recently as 2013, it had the highest level of underage drinking in the entire country. That’s right — the entire country. Seven Days VT has a great write-up on this issue in Vermont and how teenagers who drink are more likely to be addicted to alcohol as adults because of how the brain is developing.

Survey data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration shows that while underage drinking in Vermont is still high, it has decreased significantly over the past several years. In 2008-09, 36.5% of Vermonters aged 12-20 consumed alcohol. This was the highest percentage for this age group in the country. Encouragingly, this percentage decreased to 28.1% by 2016-17 and Vermont dropped to number three in the nation for underage drinking. In fact, underage drinking has decreased for each state and for the nation as a whole in recent years.

Various programs and interventions have likely had a positive impact on rate of underage drinking. We have evidence to suggest that increased access to quality afterschool programs could be a contributing factor. The 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) surveyed about 20,000 high school students on their risk behaviors including drinking habits. The was also a question on the survey about how much time they spent in afterschool programs. The findings were encouraging.

Among youth who did not participate in any amount of afterschool programming, 34% of them admitting to drinking at least once in the month leading up to the survey. For youth that participated in between one and nine hours of weekly programming, 31% of them admitted to drinking at least once. There was also a decrease seen among youth who binge drank, and those percentages are shown in the chart below. For youth that did not participate in any afterschool activities, 6.2% admitting to binge drinking ten or more drinks at least once in the month leading up to the survey. This percentage decreased to 2.7% for youth who participated in between one and four weekly hours of programming; to 3.2% for youth who participated in between five to nine weekly hours of programming, and 3.1% for youth who participated in between ten and nineteen weekly hours of programming.

Afterschool participation also seemed to have an impact on drinking and driving among youth as well. Ten percent of high school students who drove a vehicle in the month leading up to the survey admitted to doing so while drinking alcohol (at least once). Among students who participated in between one and four weekly hours of afterschool programming, this rate percentage dropped to five percent; among students who participated in between five and nine weekly hours of afterschool programming, the rate was six percent; and among students who participated in between five and nine weekly hours of afterschool programming, the rate was five percent.

Participation in quality afterschool programming provides youth with meaningful and engaging opportunities to grow and learn in healthy ways. It is not all that surprising to us that youth who participate in such programs are less likely to drink than their peers.

Read past Data Digest blog posts here:

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