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Underage drinkers account for about 17 percent of consumer expenditures for alcohol

Underage drinking contributes an estimated $23 billion yearly to the alcohol industry, more than 17 percent of the total consumer expenditures for alcohol, according to an article in the May issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

In 1998, alcohol abuse and alcoholism cost the U.S. $184 billion, more than cancer ($107 billion) or obesity ($100 billion), according to background information in the article. Research suggests that delaying the onset of regular drinking is an effective way to prevent pathological drinking. For example, one study found that those who began drinking before 15 years of age were four times more likely to become alcohol dependent, compared with those who did not drink before they turned 21. Young and old pathological drinkers consume a disproportionate share of alcohol.

Susan E. Foster, M.S.W., and colleagues from The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, New York, examined information from several national sets of data to estimate the commercial value to the alcohol industry of alcohol consumed by underage as well as abusive and dependent alcohol drinkers. The data were from several surveys that included a total of 260,580 individuals age 12 years and older. Alcohol abuse and dependence was defined according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV).

In 2001, an estimated $128.6 billion was spent on alcohol in the U.S. Of this amount, $22.5 billion (17.5 percent) was the value of alcohol consumed by underage drinkers and $36.3 billion (28.3 percent) was attributable to abusive or dependent drinking by both underage and adult drinkers. Of individuals aged 12 to 20 years, 47.1 percent were current drinkers and 25.9 percent of them met criteria for alcohol abuse and dependence, compared to only 9.6 percent of drinkers 21 years and older who were classified as being abusive of or dependent o
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Contact: Lauren Duran
212-841-5260
JAMA and Archives Journals
1-May-2006


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