February 26, 2020

Family Income Affects Teenage Drinking

Can how much YOU make influence how much teenage drinking goes on in your family?

Surprisingly, a new study suggests that the answer is “YES”

In 2015, England’s Health and Social Care Information Centre conducted research with surprising results:

  • 70% of teenagers from backgrounds that are considered to be the “least-deprived” have tried alcohol.
  • Only about half of the youth from the “most-deprived” backgrounds reported teenage drinking.
  • More than 60% of all teenagers have finished an entire alcoholic drink – not just a “sip”.
  • 15-year-olds from affluent families had DOUBLE the risk of being a regular drinker.
Early Initiation of Use Predicts Future Teenage Drinking

Researchers at the Boys Town National Research Institute have discovered that children who grow up in middle-income households are 1.5 times more likely to initiate alcohol use by age 10 than children from lower-income backgrounds.

Why is this such a big concern?

One of the biggest future consequences of adolescent and teenage drinking is a multiplied risk of alcohol abuse and addiction. And youths who use alcohol before they reach the age of 15 are SIX TIMES more likely to struggle with an Alcohol Use Disorder at some point than those who wait until they are of legal age.

Young people’s brains are still developing, and they may be more vulnerable to long-term effects on brain and educational achievement than adults – even if they drink within government-recommended upper limits for adults.”

~Dr. Sarah Jarvis, Medical Advisor to Drinkaware, an alcohol education nonprofit

Why Does Teenage Drinking Increase with Family Income?

Dr. Suniya Luthar, a Psychology Professor at Arizona State University, believes there are several factors in play:

  • Greater access to disposable income
  • Peer approval or indifference to substance use
  • A false sense of security among their parents

But there is another possible factor – parental alcohol use.

How Parents’ Use of Alcohol Contributes to Teenage Drinking

The pattern seen in teenage drinking also manifests among adults.

People who are highly educated and considered upper-income are more likely to use alcohol than those with just a high school diploma or who make less money.

How big is the difference?

Per a 2015 poll of alcohol consumption habits in the United States, 80% of people in the well-educated or higher income group drink alcohol. But only about half of people who have less education or make less money do.

For comparison, roughly 70% of US adults report drinking alcohol within the past year.

Of special relevance, those two factors – education and income – influence more than just the likelihood of ANY drinking. Rather, they also affect how OFTEN that drinking occurs.

  • 47% of people with incomes greater than $75,000 report drinking alcohol within the past 24 hours.
  • Just 18% of those making $30,000 or less report past-day alcohol use.
  • Considering education level ONLY – for college graduates, the past-day drinking rate is 45%.
  • Yet among those possessing a high school education or less, that rate drops to 28%.
What Does All This Mean?

The significance is this – your family’s education level and income do not exempt your teenager from alcohol experimentation, regular use, dependence, progressive abuse, and addiction.

Instead, those two socioeconomic factors suggest an increased risk, along with family history/genetics, home and peer environment, childhood exposure to alcohol, traumatic experiences, and concurrent mental disorders.

If you live in Orange County, California and worry about your teenager’s drinking, contact Teensavers Treatment Centers for a confidential assessment.

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