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.
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.
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.”