Breaking down misconceptions of alcohol use is an important factor in preventing future alcohol abuse problems. Underage drinking is societal problem that parents, law enforcement, healthcare providers and government officials have been battling for decades.
New research shows that teenage girls are now drinking earlier than teenage boys. This is the first time that the sexes have made this switch and it seems that adults are not far behind. Adult women are closing the gap with adult males in drinking frequency and amount.
According to researchers, underage drinking for females can be traced to a few different factors. Some experts are pointing their fingers at alcohol advertisers. There is an increase in fruity, sweet-tasting drinks available to consumers and teenage girls tend to gravitate towards these types of beverages. Additionally, drinking has become more accepted in society. In the past, males have consumed more and earlier in life, while girls stayed away from alcohol until they were older. Because of this, many programs and initiatives to curb underage drinking are geared towards boys instead of girls.
Testing and research measures that gauge drinking trends have also changed. Researchers have gotten more sophisticated with their testing questions and study groups. This has allowed the medical community to spot this change among teenagers.
“We found that over that period of time, differences in measures such as current drinking, number of drinking days per month, reaching criteria for an alcohol use disorder and driving under the influence of alcohol in the past year, al narrowed for females and males,” explained Aaron White, the study author and senior scientific advisor to the director of the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
Since teenage drinking is more likely to lead to an adult drinking problem, it is imperative that stronger and more effective programs are developed to curb underage alcohol abuse. Additionally, equal attention should be given to educating both males and females, as indicated in the study that appeared in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.