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Alcohol Issues Insights

"We believe that the time has come to consider changes to current" minimum age laws in the US. That's the bold conclusion of a report from Middlebury College President Emeritus John McCardell, Jr. after an exhaustive review of the issue. Recall that McCardell first publicly challenged the 21-yr-old law in a 2004 New York Times op-ed. And INSIGHTS reported on the initiation of this project in November 2005. His group's 200+ page White Paper titled "The Effects of the 21 Year-Old Drinking Age" aims not only to begin a "spirited debate," but also to serve as the basis to advocate for this fairly radical policy change. McCardell has launched a new non-profit group called "Choose Responsibility" to advance the report's key proposal: States should be allowed, without federal penalties, to "license young adults age 18 to 20 to purchase and consume alcoholic beverages

Publishing Info

  • Year 2007
  • Volume 24
  • Issue # 2
A closer look at this year's Monitoring the Future Survey of student drinking and attitudes indicates significant long-term progress in reducing consumption and increasing disapproval of drinking among 8th, 10th and 12th graders. MTF has now built a 15-year series for key measures for each age group (a longer series is available for high school seniors). Almost all of the use patterns in the table below show the same trend: little progress in reducing monthly or so-called "binge" drinking from 1991 to 1996, but significant declines over the last decade. Every measure of use among each grade level declined by at least 10% over the last 10 years. Most striking: monthly use rates among 8th graders and binge drinking declined by 34% and 30% respectively from 1996 to 2006. Even among high school seniors, these rates dropped 11-12%. Not surprisingly, trends in disapproval of drinking moved in the opposite direction. While disapproval of both trying alcohol and weekend binges softened from 1991 to 1996, disapproval rates subsequently increased. Still, there remains a stubbornly large percentage of young people who either drink heavily at least on occasion (11-27%) and who apparently approve of the habit (18-32%). So the coalition of policymakers,…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2007
  • Volume 24
  • Issue # 1
It's interesting to parse the language of a new, widely reported "meta-analysis" that pooled results from 34 international studies of drinking and its effect on mortality risk. The analysis is especially robust. Ten of the studies had not been included in any previous, similar meta-analysis. The studies gathered data on over 1 million adults. Follow-up periods ranged from 5.5 years to 26 years with half of the studies having an average follow-up time of over 10 years. The results were remarkably positive: Overall, women who consumed 1- 2 drinks per day and men who consumed 2-4 drinks per day reduced their risk of death (over the course of the studies) by 15-18% compared to non-drinkers. Heavier drinkers had increased mortality risk. The reductions were fairly consistent whether adjusted for geography, age and/or social status. Why is the cut off point lower for women? The authors suggest that because women metabolize alcohol differently than men and reach higher BAC levels, they have higher risks for cancer. Also, since pre-menopausal women have low rates of heart disease, "the benefits of alcohol on total mortality may appear to be reduced," they add. One other interesting finding: "maximum risk reduction was in the range…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2006
  • Volume 23
  • Issue # 12
While public health advocates have attacked beer marketing for years, there doesn't seem to be a huge public groundswell of ill will about television ads or other brewer efforts. Since the Beer Institute established its Code Compliance Review Board almost a year ago, the CCRB has passed judgment on only 3 television ads and 1 billboard. In each case, the Board disagreed with the suggestion that the ad violated the BI's voluntary guidelines. Looking at the 3 television ad complaints resolved in June, these viewers basically failed to appreciate their humor. One guy complained that a "Hidden Bud Light" ad was "lacking in humor or sarcastic commentary and is in no way amusing" and that the "Touch Football" ad for Michelob Ultra Amber (which shows a male hard-tackling a woman after catching a pass and ends with her knocking him off a bar stool) "seems to validate 'savage attacks.'" But the CCRB found that the Bud Light ad "clearly falls into the realm of parody or spoof" and that "Touch Football" seemed "entirely farcical and intended to suspend reality for the viewer." Similarly, the CCRB disagreed with a woman who complained that the Miller Lite Man Law "You Poke It,…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2006
  • Volume 23
  • Issue # 11
Most of moderate drinking's key beneficial effects - reduced cardiovascular disease, improved cognition, stronger bones - has shown up among middle-aged and older adults. That's one reason policymakers and practitioners shy away from broad recommendations to drink. But a new international study - covering nearly 16,000 university students in 20 countries - found that young adult (age 17-30) moderate drinkers were less likely to report symptoms of depression than non-drinkers or heavy drinkers. The UK-based authors used two measures of moderate drinking, one based on number of drinks consumed per occasion and one based on number of drinks consumed in the 2 weeks prior to filling out the survey. To measure depression they used a "short (13 item) Beck Depression Inventory." They also controlled for several key potentially confounding factors: living arrangements (at home or at school), self-reported health and socio-economic status. Regardless of the moderation measure, the authors found that "fewer moderate drinkers than nondrinkers had depression levels above threshold, whereas nondrinkers and heavy drinkers did not differ." Nondrinkers were 20-25% more likely to be at risk for elevated depression levels than moderate drinkers. Once again the key finding here was a potential benefit (no causal link was found)…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2006
  • Volume 23
  • Issue # 10
INSIGHTS continues to closely follow the annual Monitoring the Future Surveys of young adults, which track both drinking rates and attitudes about moderate (and heavy) drinking. Just-released data from the 2005 survey gives pause for both optimism and concern. On the positive side, the percentage of both 19-22 yr-olds and 27-30 yr-olds who "disapprove" of moderate drinking (1-2 drinks "nearly every day") fell sharply in the 2005 data, and to the lowest levels for both groups since the surveys started asking the question. While 2/3 of 27-30 yr-olds disapproved of moderate drinking in 2004, that figure dropped to 60.5% in 2005, and was down from over 73% in 1990. The disapproval rate among 19-22 yr-olds declined by 4 points in 2005 and was down from 79.7% in 1990 to 64.6% last yr. Interestingly, a slightly higher percentage of 23-26 yr olds disapproved of moderate drinking in 2005 than a year earlier, but the long-term trend among that age group also shows more acceptance of moderate drinking. Similarly, long-term trends in the percentage of young adults who believe moderate drinking poses a "great risk" to the drinker have also declined, though there were slight increases in the perception of such risk…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2006
  • Volume 23
  • Issue # 9