Skip to Main Content
Underage Drinking

Think boys drink more? Think again.

alcohol gender gap women
Share:

Adolescent boys have historically been more likely to misuse alcohol than adolescent girls. But in recent years, the gender gap has closed. Roles are reversing - teen girls have passed teen boys in underage drinking, but by how much? Some statistics to know:

More alcohol misuse has fueled higher rates of binge drinking among adolescent girls. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines binge drinking as “a pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 percent—or 0.08 grams of alcohol per deciliter—or higher.” Depending on the size and age of the individual, this can happen after only three drinks for girls and three to five drinks for boys consumed in about two hours.

Adolescent girls’ alcohol intake has leaped over time: In 2009, 14 percent of girls reported past-month drinking. The number rose to 20 percent in 2019. This change represents a more than 40 percent increase over the decade, with thousands more teen girls experiencing the dangers of alcohol.

What has contributed to girls’ lead in alcohol misuse? The NIAAA explains that teen boys have slowed their alcohol consumption in recent years to a degree that teen girls haven’t. Adult women have also consumed more alcohol since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Increased alcohol consumption leading other substance-related concerns

Overall teen prescription opioid misuse has notably declined, even as recently as 2021. Yet adolescent girls have still had a larger problem with that category of substances in recent years.

A 2017 CDC study found that drug overdose deaths involving opioids showed less of a decline from 1999 to 2015 among teen girls aged 15 to 19 than boys in that age group. In 2019, the CDC further showed that adolescent girls had higher rates of current and lifetime opioid misuse than adolescent boys. The study links more prescription opioid misuse with binge drinking among students and adults alike.

What could come next: More motor vehicle crashes

Teens experience less safety on the road than other drivers. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) share that adolescents in the U.S. experience a disproportionately high number of motor vehicle crashes and crash deaths every year.

The difference: A nearly three times higher fatal crash rate per mile driven among teens aged 16 to 19 than those aged 20 or older.

When students misuse alcohol before getting behind the wheel, their risk of injury increases. In 2019, the IIHS and the HLDI found that teen boys were more likely than teen girls to have high BACs while driving. Boys also accounted for about 2 out of every 3 crash deaths among adolescents that year.

Changes in underage drinking habits among the genders could lead to shifts in driving outcomes. As adolescent girls grow in misusing alcohol and binge drinking, they may become more vulnerable to vehicle crashes and crash deaths influenced by the substance.

As drinking trends change, so should parents’ strategies

With historically higher drinking rates among teen boys, parents may worry less about their teen girls having alcohol.

In a 2014 survey commissioned by the North Carolina ABC Commission, parents with all boys reported experiencing more concern about drinking than parents with all girls. Yet in the study, 15 percent more high school girls said it would be easy for them to get alcohol than high school boys reported.

Rising drinking rates among teen girls in more recent years show that alcohol remains available to adolescents. These increases also suggest teen girls' interest in taking advantage of available alcohol may only be growing.

To account for the trend, parents should watch for signs of alcohol misuse among their adolescent girls and boys with equal attention.

Learn how to spot the signs of teen substance misuse.

Preventing underage drinking across the gender gap

Preventing alcohol misuse among students is crucial regardless of their gender. Drinking under the age of 21 is illegal in the United States for a reason—it isn’t in the best interest of any teen.

As a parent, the NIAAA suggests you discourage your teen from engaging in underage drinking by:

  • Not making alcohol available
  • Talking about the dangers of drinking
  • Supervising all parties to make sure there is no alcohol present
  • Serving as a positive role model, among other practices

Find more resources on underage drinking.

View more resources like this.

See All

Prescriptions / Opioids

The Danger Hiding in Your Cabinets

What harm can prescription drugs pose to teens?

Read Article
Drug Use

The Consequences of Laughing Gas Aren't so Funny

Learn about nitrous oxide and its popularity with teens.

Read Article
Vaping / Nicotine

Vaping: The Most Popular Gateway Activity

Vaping paves the pathway to other addictions for young nicotine users.

Read Article
Underage Drinking

What teens think they know about substances (and what they don’t)

Substance misuse is growing among teens. Learn some of the factors, and what you can do about them.

Read Article
Drug Use

Cannabis: More Accessible and More Dangerous

Learn about the dangers of the wide-spread drug, cannabis

Read Article
Underage Drinking

Parents are Letting their Kids Drink Now More than Ever

Learn why parents have been easing up on alcohol rules, and the consequences they don't know they're bringing on.

Read Article
Impaired Driving

The impact of impaired driving: Why substances make for unsafe roads

Learn about the various types of impaired driving and the dangers they create.

Read Article
Drug Use

Changing the terms of addiction medicine: What you say counts

Read about the ways language around addiction is changing.

Read Article
Underage Drinking

How to spot the signs of teen substance misuse

All teens are at risk of falling into substance misuse. Learn how to spot the signs and what to do about them.

Read Article
Impaired Driving

The Pandemic Behind the Pandemic: How COVID-19 Has Impacted Roadway Safety

Learn why alcohol impaired driving has been on the rise, and what you can do to stop it.

Read Article
Underage Drinking

Be Careful Out There, Teens!

A look at how alcohol affects the developing brains of teenagers.

Watch Video
Vaping / Nicotine

THE DANGERS OF TEEN VAPING: THIS FREE GUIDE EXPLAINS WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

A new generation of nicotine addicts have easy access to vaping, and they don't know the risks.

Read Article
Vaping / Nicotine

Greene County Tobacco/Vaping :30 - #1

This product was supported by SAMHSA grant funding.

Watch Video
Underage Drinking

Teen Perspectives on Alcohol

Real talk from real teens on avoiding alcohol in high school.

Watch Video
Prescriptions / Opioids

From Opioids to Heroin - Samantha's Story

An all-too-familiar story of prescribed medications leading to deadly addiction.

Watch Video
Vaping / Nicotine

Safe & Sober Vaping Education - 2021

We break down the science and social factors of nicotine addiction.

Watch Video
Underage Drinking

Parents Talk About Alcohol

Parents share their perspectives on teen drinking

Watch Video
Vaping / Nicotine

Greene County Tobacco/Vaping :30

Nicotine is a chemical you don't want to wrestle with.

Watch Video
Underage Drinking

Underage Drinking - A Police Perspective

Law enforcement officers talk about their experiences with underage drinkers.

Watch Video
Underage Drinking

30 FACTS ABOUT ALCOHOL

Healthline's Carly Vandergriendt shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about alcohol.

Read Article
Underage Drinking

Alcohol Explained

Watch this video to learn how alcohol reacts in the body

Watch Video
Prescriptions / Opioids

Student Perspectives on Opioid Use

Real talk on a tough topic

Watch Video
Impaired Driving

Toni Anderson's Story

The story of one young life cut short by a dangerous decision and tragic circumstances.

Watch Video
Underage Drinking

TikTok shows alcohol use, but not consequences

Alcohol & Social Media

Read Article
Underage Drinking

When teens drink, they drink a lot

Why binge drinking is a prevalent issue among teens, and how you can prevent it

Read Article
Mental Health

Walking Through the Pandemic

Healthy Ways to Cope with a Changed World

Read Article
Mental Health

Helping Students Navigate the New Normal

Pandemic Disruptions Continue for Students and Families

Read Article
Prescriptions / Opioids

Stranger Than Fiction

America's opioid crisis: From TV shows to real-life tragedies

Read Article
Impaired Driving

Don't Throw it Away

The decision to drink and drive can impact your future and put lives in danger. Choose to say no.

Watch Video
Drug Use

Choose to be Safe and Sober

For your family. For your friends. For your future. For you.

Watch Video

2021 Safe and Sober PSA

Watch the 2021 Safe and Sober PSA

Watch Video
Mental Health

WOULD YOU RECOGNIZE THE SIGNS OF DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY?

Many teens are still struggling with emotional challenges as the world moves on from COVID-19. Our featured guest contributor breaks down some of the warning signs.

Read Article
Prescriptions / Opioids

OPIOIDS: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Opioid prescriptions are often misused. Safety is a top priority.

Read Article
Mental Health

COVID-19 AND THE YOUTH MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS: WHAT PARENTS NEED TO KNOW

Middle and high school students have been in the center of a mental health crisis for years, but the COVID-19 pandemic brought the situation into sharp focus.

Read Article
Underage Drinking

8 MYTHS ABOUT UNDERAGE DRINKING, BUSTED

It's not safe, no matter how you spin it.

Read Article
Mental Health

A PARENT’S GUIDE TO DEPRESSION IN TEENAGERS

Start the conversation about mental health with your teen.

Read Article
Impaired Driving

CASSIDY'S STORY

Your choices now impact your future. Don't drink and drive.

Watch Video
Underage Drinking

HOW YOUNG IS TOO YOUNG TO TALK TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT ALCOHOL?

The earlier you can start the conversation, the better.

Read Article