CDC: Binge drinking among teen girls increasing

CDC study shows one in five teen girls participate in binge drinking about three times a month. The CDC connects availability and affordability of alcohol with the rise of binge drinking.

Associated Press
CDC: Binge drinking study says 20 percent of high school girls are binge drinking. Here, a Connecticut state sheriff displays a drivers license designed to be hard to fake – one method of cutting alcohol sales to underage drinkers. File/2007.

Ok, parents of daughters. Time to get worried again.

All that Animal House-style drinking you think is the realm of frat boys and off-season football players is actually your problem, too.

According to a new report from the US Centers for Disease Control, one in five high school girls are binge drinkers – despite risks that range from long term health problems and unintended pregnancy to sexual assault and domestic violence. 

(Not to mention the more general “it’s a really bad idea for lots of reasons to get wasted at a party” issue.)

The number of female binge drinker creeps up throughout high school and hits 24 percent for college, according to the CDC’s January “Vital Signs” report. Overall, it estimated that about one in eight women aged 18 years and over binge drink.

Now, binge drinking here is defined as consuming four or more drinks in a short period of time, although the average female drinker downs six per binge, and binges about three times a month.

And the issue, apparently, is not only that women metabolize alcohol differently than men, but that the beverages girls drink tends to be stronger than those consumed by guys. Think wine coolers and vodka spritzers versus a beer. (Thanks a bunch, alcohol advertisers.)

So even though boozing boys still tend to drink a greater number of alcoholic beverages than their female counterparts, a binge drinking girl will often get more drunk. 

Another tidbit from the new report: The young women most likely to engage in this sort of drinking behavior are white and wealthy, with household incomes of $75,000 or more. This connects with the CDC’s assertion that availability and affordability of alcohol has a lot to do with the prevalence of binge drinking.

So, what to do?  Here are a few suggestions from the CDC, which we’re sure will appear more or less popular, depending on your perspective:

  • Increase alcohol taxes
  • Reduce the number and concentration of alcohol retailers in any given area
  • Reduce the days and hours of alcohol sales
  • Screening and counseling excessive alcohol use

We’re also a fan of the “talk with your kid” method of intervention. This has land mines, of course, but try following those general rules of openness, listening and respect. And attempt to avoid the preaching. Because remember, the CDC found that one of the biggest indicators of how often a teen drinks is what they see modeled by the adults in their community.

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