Age-Specific Prevalence of Binge and High-Intensity Drinking Among U.S. Young Adults: Changes from 2005 to 2015

BACKGROUND: This study examined changes during the past decade, from 2005 to 2015, in binge and high-intensity drinking in 7 separate age groups of U.S. 12th graders and young adults. METHODS: National longitudinal data (N = 6,711) from Monitoring the Future were used to examine trends in consuming 5+, 10+, and 15+ drinks on the same occasion in the past 2 weeks from ages 18 to 29/30 overall and by gender. Results were compared with trends in past 12-month and 30-day alcohol use for the same age groups. RESULTS: Between 2005 and 2015, binge (5+) and high-intensity drinking (10+, 15+) generally decreased for individuals in their early 20s, remained somewhat stable for individuals in their mid-20s, and increased for individuals at the end of young adulthood (age 29/30). The observed historical trends in binge and high-intensity drinking were similar to those for past 12-month and past 30-day alcohol use for those aged 18 to 20, but diverged for most other age groups in young adulthood. Trends were generally similar for men and women, except that the increase in prevalence began earlier in young adulthood for women than for men. CONCLUSIONS: Binge and high-intensity drinking among U.S. 12th graders and young adults are dynamic phenomena. Prevention and intervention efforts aimed at reducing the harms resulting from 5+, 10+, and 15+ drinking should acknowledge and focus on differences in trends in these behaviors by age and gender.