About 28% of college students now abstain from alcohol, vs only 20% in 2002

A new study finds that considerably more college-age Americans now abstain from alcohol than they did as recently as 2002.

A new study finds that considerably more college-age Americans now abstain from alcohol than they did in 2002.

Between 2002 and 2018, the number of U.S. college students aged 18-22 who abstained from alcohol increased from 20% to 28%.

For those not in college, the number of abstainers rose from 24% to 30%.

At the same time, alcohol abuse among both groups decreased by roughly half. 

The study appeared in the journal JAMA Pediatrics on October 12.

It used data from a nationally representative survey of 182,722 young adults.

The research also looked at prescription drug use.

A surprising drop in alcohol use among young people

Notably, the researchers were particularly surprised by the drop in alcohol use and misuse. 

“We’re encouraged by the significant decreases in alcohol use disorder,” said lead author Sean Esteban McCabe.  

“The prevalence of alcohol use disorder in both groups in 2018 was roughly half of what it was in 2002,” he said.

“We are excited to learn about these drops in disordered drinking, as alcohol-related consequences are one of the leading causes of mortality and morbidity for young adults,” he said. 

Interventions get more young people to abstain from alcohol

“Interventions that focus solely on one substance will be less effective than interventions that take a more holistic polysubstance use perspective,” McCabe said.   

“The finding that abstinence is increasing among college students and young adults not in college is very important for U.S. colleges and universities to take into account moving forward,” he said.

“These findings reinforce the importance of the need to support those young adults in recovery and abstinence for other reasons.” 

Authors: Sean Esteban McCabe and Ty Schepis
Published in: JAMA Pediatrics
Publication date: October 12, 2020
DOI: https://doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2020.3352
Photo: by Kirill Averianov via Pixabay