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Jun 02, 2015 01:14 PM EDT

Stricter Alcohol Laws May Reduce Teen Drinking

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High school students are less likely to consume alcohol in states with stronger alcohol policies, according to a study.

Researchers found that even if the laws are targeting teens directly, as a state's alcohol laws get tougher teen drinking plummets. The findings suggest that "strategies to reduce and prevent underage drinking must target parents and adults," Reuters reported.

"Nobody's ever looked to see how policies explain big differences between kids' drinking among different states," Dr. Timothy Naimi, co-author of the study and an alcohol epidemiologist at Boston Medical Center, told HealthDay. "There's a strong overall relationship between [alcohol] policies and teen drinking, but if you account for the difference in youth-specific policies, you find the adult-oriented policies have an equal or greater effect on teen drinking."

For the study, researchers used a scoring system called the Alcohol Policy Scale to measure the strength of state alcohol policies. They also collected and analyzed data from seven surveys of high school students conducted between 1999 and 2011. In the survey, high school students reported "how often they had any alcoholic drinks or been binge drinking over the previous month," Reuters reported.

They found that state-level alcohol policies that higher scale scores had less youth alcohol consumption and binge drinking.

According to HealthDay, even when researchers focused only on states that implemented alcohol-related legislation that targeted adults, "the odds of teen drinking dropped 6 percent and the odds of teen binge drinking dropped 4 percent."

"Taking into consideration the power of adult influence upon youth behaviors, it is not surprising that the findings show polices that target adults have an impact on teen behaviors," Mayra Mendez, program coordinator for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and Mental Health Services at Providence Saint John's Child and Family Development Center in Santa Monica, Calif, is quoted as saying by HealthDay. "There is a relationship between youth drinking patterns and adult drinking patterns, both for positive and negative behaviors."

The findings are detailed in the journal Pediatrics

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