Fewer Teens Drinking as They Enter College, Polls Find

Filed under: In The News, Alcohol & Drugs, Teen Culture, Education: Teens

More incoming college freshmen are passing on the booze. Credit: Corbis

If you have a college-age son or daughter, you may be worried about what they might be doing with their newfound freedom. But recent trends amongst college kids may help alleviate some of that anxiety.

A national survey of 500,000 incoming college freshmen conducted last summer found that 62 percent said they had not had a drink during the previous two weeks -- an increase from 60 percent the prior year and a huge jump from 38 percent in 2006, USA Today reports.

Conducted by Outside the Classroom, an organization that provides alcohol education at colleges, the survey points to a growing demographic trend, according to CEO Brandon Busteed.

Though it's not clear why so many 18-year-olds are choosing not to drink, Busteed says the economy is a big reason, telling the MetroWest Daily News that students may be taking college more seriously because their families are struggling more than ever to afford to send them there.

But Busteed also suggests the Internet may play a factor, and a striking awareness that privacy is hard to come by online.

"A lot of young adults realize that the quickest thing you can do to destroy a job interview is to go in all shiny and polished up and then they check Facebook," and there they are "at a keg stand," he tells USA Today.

Other groups that track teen drinking also report a similar, though less dramatic, trend, reports USA Today.

In 2010, 58.8 percent of high school seniors reported they didn't drink in the past 30 days, compared to 54.7 in 2008, according to the University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future survey, which polls eighth, 10th and 12th graders; the percentage has risen by 11.5 percent since 1997, USA Today reports.

However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Systems reports that, though the number of 12th-graders who abstain from alcohol has increased since 1999 (38.3 percent), the number hasn't changed much since 2005 when it reached 49.2 percent, USA Today reports.

However, it's important to note that the CDC and University of Michigan surveys cover all high school seniors, not just those who go on to attend college, as the Outside the Classroom survey does.

But even though the trend seems to be pointing to a more sober college cohort, the temptations and the perceived social importance of drinking still exist on campuses, the Daily News reports.

"We're up against this image of what college life is supposed to be like," Kara Kolomitz, dean of students at Regis College in Weston, Mass., tells the Daily News. "Part of the pressure for first-year students is they're hearing all these messages -- 'Go and have a good time, enjoy it.'"

In addition, many college freshmen are being given a level of independence they've never had before and with that comes trying new things, and sometimes that includes alcohol, Melinda Stoops, dean of students at Framingham State University in Framingham, Mass., tells the Daily News.

Yet, even though the trend looks good for incoming freshmen, Busteed tells USA Today that schools need to focus on keeping those non-drinkers from becoming drinkers. He explains, that similar to the Freshman 15 -- referring to the number of pounds students are said to gain in their freshman year -- there's also a known "college effect" of students who didn't drink in high school starting up once they get to college.

But Busteed said he hopes Outside the Classroom's findings will motivate colleges to ramp up efforts to offer alternatives to students who have not yet succumbed to the drinking culture.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.