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Alcohol: A Women's Health Issue - Part 4

Drinking Among Adolescent Girls

Despite the fact that drinking is illegal for anyone under the age of 21, the reality is that many adolescent girls drink. Research shows that about 37 percent of 9th grade girls—usually about 14 years old—report drinking in the past month. (This rate is slightly more than that for 9th grade boys.) Even more alarming is the fact that about 17 percent of these same young girls report having had five or more drinks on a single occasion during the previous month.

Consequences of Unsafe Drinking

  • Drinking under age 21 is illegal in every State.
  • Drunk driving is one of the leading causes of teen death.
  • Drinking makes young women more vulnerable to sexual assault and unsafe and unplanned sex. On college campuses, assaults, unwanted sexual advances, and unplanned and unsafe sex are all more likely among students who drink heavily on occasion—for men, five drinks in a row, for women, four. In general, when a woman drinks to excess she is more likely to be a target of violence or sexual assault.
  • Young people who begin drinking before age 15 have a 40-percent higher risk of developing alcohol abuse or alcoholism some time in their lives than those who wait until age 21 to begin drinking. This increased risk is the same for young girls as it is for boys.

Alcohol's Appeal for Teens

Among the reasons teens give most often for drinking are to have a good time, to experiment, and to relax or relieve tension. Peer pressure can encourage drinking. Teens who grow up with parents who support, watch over, and talk with them are less likely to drink than their peers.

Staying Away From Alcohol

Young women under age 21 should not drink alcohol. Among the most important things parents can do is to talk frankly with their daughters about not drinking alcohol.

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Source: NIH Publication No. 08–4956
Revised 2008

Page last modified or reviewed by athealth on January 29, 2014