SALT LAKE CITY — Alcohol use among some Utah high school seniors has increased — the first time the state’s teen drinking survey has shown higher alcohol consumption rates in 10 years.
The Student Health and Risk Prevention survey also showed a slight uptick in drinking among sixth-graders, while alcohol consumption among eighth- and 10th-graders dropped.
Doug Murakami, Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control’s director of alcohol education, said the increase isn’t completely unexpected since Utah has low rates, but that it’s something to keep an eye on.
“Despite this increase, we are considerably lower than (2003) when the survey began, and we are lower than the national average,” Murakami said.
High school seniors who say they drank alcohol within the past 30 days rose from 13.6 percent in 2015 to 14.7 percent this year, which is still much lower than the national average of 33.2 percent. For sixth-graders, the number rose from 0.7 percent to 0.9 percent.
In addition, binge drinking among all grades rose. The percent of students who say they’ve had five or more drinks in a row in the past 30 days went up from 8.1 percent in 2015 to 8.6 percent this year.
The survey is given to 50,000 students biannually.
Murakami said he is particularly concerned with where the teens are getting their alcohol from.
“Parents are the key to preventing underage drinking,” he said. “They’re the ones with the influence over the kids. It’s their job, really.”
In the 2017 survey, 43 percent of students who use alcohol reported that they drank it at home with permission of their parents, while 31.5 percent said they received it at another home with permission of parents.
“This demonstrates the continued need to raise awareness of the availability of alcohol in the home and that all kids need their parents’ help to stay alcohol-free, regardless of their upbringing,” Murakami wrote in the Parents Empowered annual report.