Nebraska Shares Underage Drinking Data, Prevention Tips During Alcohol Awareness Month

News Release
For Immediate Release: 4/22/2019

April 22, 2019

Julie Naughton, Communications and Legislative Services, 402-471-1695 (office); 402-405-7202 (cell);

Lincoln – April is Alcohol Awareness Month – and given Nebraska's higher-than-average binge-drinking rate, the Division of Behavioral Health at the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is sharing on a new study about how young adults misuse alcohol.

“Alcohol is the most commonly used substance in Nebraska," said Sheri Dawson, director of the Division of Behavioral Health at DHHS. “The rates of underage drinking, binge drinking [generally defined as five or more drinks in two hours for men or four in the same time frame for women], and alcohol-impaired driving continue to be higher in Nebraska than the U.S average. Alcohol misuse within Nebraska places a significant strain on the health care system, the criminal justice system, and the substance use disorder treatment system. While alcohol misuse is a cause for concern among people of all ages in Nebraska, it is particularly an issue among young adults, ages 19-25."

In addition to the Division's extensive preventative work in this area - which includes Across Ages, an underage drinking program; Responsible Beverage Server Training, and Communities Mobilizing for Change on Alcohol, which addresses underage drinking access – the Division of Behavioral Health also helps administer the Nebraska Young Adult Alcohol Opinion Survey, which was created in 2010 to capture and measure attitude about alcohol use. The survey targets 19 to 25-year-olds across the state, and in 2018, 1,967 respondents completed the survey. Learnings include:

Alcohol Use and Binge Drinking among 19-25-Year-Olds in Nebraska

  • About two-thirds of respondents in 2018 (65.1%) reported using alcohol in the past month.
  • Among past-month alcohol users in 2018, slightly over half (51.9%) reported binge drinking in the past 30 days which is significantly less than previous years (64.8% in 2010, 68.3% in 2012, 66.3% in 2013, 56.3% in 2016).
  • Among all respondents in 2018 about one in three (33.4%) reported binge drinking in the past month which than previous years (43.8% in 2010, 47.1% in 2012, 44.9% in 2013, 37.4% in 2016).

Impaired Driving among 19-25-Year-Olds in Nebraska

  • There have been incremental decreases in past year alcohol-impaired driving in each survey administration. Reported past year driving under the influence of alcohol has decreased from 30.3% in 2010 to 19.8% in 2018.  
  • Past-month driving after binge drinking has also decreased from 8.4% in 2010 to 4.0% in 2018.

Attitudes and Perceptions Related to Alcohol among 19-25-Year-Olds in Nebraska

  • The rate of Nebraska young adults who perceive a moderate or great risk of harm (physically or in other ways) from binge drinking has increased from 71.1% in 2010 to 78.3% in 2018.
  • The amount of risk an individual believes binge drinking has significantly impacts their behaviors. In 2018, those who reported no risk from binge drinking had a significantly higher past month binge drinking rate of 56.0%, compared to 21.3% for their peers who reported great risk.
  • Underage binge drinking of all forms, whether for those under 18 or those ages 18 to 20, was viewed as wrong or very wrong. Nearly all (92.8%) of Nebraska young adults perceived it is wrong or very wrong for individuals under the age of 18 to get drunk and 76.6% perceived it is wrong or very wrong for individuals ages 18 to 20 to get drunk in 2018.
  • Social norms attitudes were more favorable towards legal-age binge drinking, with 28.0% of 2018 survey respondents reported that it is wrong or very wrong for individuals 21 and over to binge drink.
  • There was also a strong disapproval of providing alcohol to minors, with 77.9% of young adults perceiving it as wrong or very wrong to provide alcohol to individuals under 21 years old in 2018.
  • Young adults believed that half (48.5%) of their peers binge drank alcohol in the past 30 days, which is higher than the percent that actually binge drink (33.4%). In addition, young adults believed that nearly one in three (30.1%) of their peers drove after binge drinking in the past 30 days which is much higher than the percent who reported driving after binge drinking (4.0%). 

Concerned about a loved one's alcohol use?  A few suggestions for starting a meaningful conversation:

  • Try to be objective and open. Do your best to keep an open mind and remain curious. Your child is more likely to be receptive this way.
  • Ask open-ended questions. These are questions that elicit more than just a “yes" or “no" response and will lead to a more engaging conversation.
  • Let your teen know they're being heard. Use active listening and reflect back what you are hearing. For example, you can say, “I'm hearing that you feel overwhelmed, and that you think drinking helps you relax. Is that right?"
  • Discuss the negative effects of alcohol, and what that means in terms of mental and physical health, safety and making good decisions.


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