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Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility
of heavy drinking on college campuses modify the definition for women to four rather than five drinks in a row. Recent studies using this modified measure have reported increased rates of heavy drinking among women on college campuses; this may suggest that gender differences in heavy drinking are also beginning to erode (Wechsler et al., 2002).
Several generalizations about underage drinking emerge from these data. Substantial numbers of 12- to 14-year-olds are using alcohol, and more girls than boys are having their first drink at this age. When adolescents and young adults do drink, they generally do not drink often as adults, but they drink more heavily. Variation in prevalence and drinking patterns are found by ethnicity and gender: racial and ethnic minorities tend to have a lower prevalence than non-Hispanic whites, and although the gender gap appears to be eroding, older females (18 to 20 years) tend to have a lower prevalence than males.
While it is encouraging that racial and ethnic minority youth as a whole have lower rates of alcohol use than non-Hispanic white youth, it is notable to mention that alcohol abuse and alcohol-related problems affect these communities to varying degrees. While Asian American youth as a whole tend to have lower rates of alcohol use than other youth, specific subgroups (Koreans, 21.1 percent; Filipinos, 19.1 percent; and Asian Indians, 17.5 percent) report similar rates of past month use as some Latino subgroups (Central or South American, 22.3 percent; Cuban, 22.3 percent) and African American youth (18.5 percent) (NHSDA, 2001). Moreover, for youth aged 12 to 17, nearly one-third of all Filipinos (29.5 percent) and a quarter of all Koreans (24.9 percent) reported alcohol use within the past year (NHSDA, 2001). By ignoring the differences that occur both across and within youth subgroups, misperceptions about alcohol use among certain groups may lead to incorrect views of actual need.
It is also important to consider acculturation experiences as they affect drinking behavior. Research has shown that while newly arrived immigrants have lower rates of alcohol use, consumption and more liberal attitudes toward drinking increase as individuals become more acculturated (NIAAA, 1994; National Women’s Health Information Center, 2002). This trend has serious implications for many minority communities as subsequent generations reside in the United States for longer periods of time.
OVERALL CONSUMPTION LEVELS
Efforts to estimate the proportion of alcohol consumed by underage drinkers have been bedeviled by the imprecision of quantity questions in