Evidence suggests adolescent alcohol consumption has declined since the turn of the millennium in almost all high-income countries. However, differences in the timing and magnitude of the decline have not been explored across countries.
We examined trends in adolescent past month or monthly alcohol consumption prevalence from cross-national or national survey reports for 39 countries and four US territories. For each country, we calculated the magnitude of the decline in youth drinking as the relative change in prevalence from the peak year to the most recent year available. Heat maps were utilized to present the timing and magnitudes of these declines.
The timing and extent of youth drinking declines have varied markedly across countries. The decline began in the USA before 1999, followed by Northern European countries in the early 2000s; Western Europe and Australasia in the mid-2000s. The steepest declines were found for Northern Europe and the UK, and the shallowest declines were observed in Eastern and Southern European countries.
Previous analyses of the decline in adolescent drinking have emphasized the wide reach of the changes and their near-coincidence in time. Our analysis points to the other side of the picture that there were limits to the wide reach, and that there was considerable variation in timing. These findings suggest that as well as broader explanations that stretch across countries, efforts to explain recent trends in adolescent drinking should also consider factors specific to countries and regions.