Twelve Ounces of Prevention: A Look at Alcohol Use by Erie County Youth

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1 ][ Strengthening our community through increased awareness and accountability ][ Vol.5 Issue 1 Spring 2013 Inside the Report Frequency of Use Age of First Use Attitudes About Alcohol Use Drinking Under the Influence Summary The complete Erie County PAYS report for 2011 as well as for previous years can be found at The purpose of the Mercyhurst Civic Institute Enhance and facilitate citizen participation in decision-making. Provide high-quality, objective information to assist local decision-making. Twelve Ounces of Prevention: A Look at Alcohol Use by Erie County Youth By: Kristen Burillo, Research Analyst Alcohol continues to be the most commonly used substance in Erie County, but just how common is it? How harmful do Erie County students view its regular use? Do students report that their peers approve of regular alcohol use? Do students think their parents disapprove of drinking? This report, which takes a deeper look at the most recent data concerning alcohol use by youth in Erie County, will provide information related to those topics as well as others. The data included in this report is from the Pennsylvania Youth Survey (PAYS). Conducted by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, the PAYS is a self-report measure administered every other year to 6 th, 8 th, 10 th, and 12 th grade students in Pennsylvania s public schools. The 2011 survey, which is the source for most of the data in this report, was sponsored locally by the Erie County Office of Drug and Alcohol Abuse and was facilitated by the Mercyhurst University Civic Institute in partnership with the Erie County Policy and Planning Council and Erie Unified Youth Violence Reduction Initiative. Nine school districts participated in the survey, and the survey was completed by 3,570 students in Erie County. Frequency of Use The PAYS asks students about lifetime use as well as past-30-day use of alcohol. Lifetime prevalence of use that is, whether the student has ever used alcohol is a good measure of student experimentation. Past-30-day prevalence of use whether the student has used the drug within the last month is a good measure of current use. As illustrated in Figure 1, 41% of respondents in Erie County reported lifetime use, which is less than the 44% of respondents in Pennsylvania who reported lifetime use. Past-30-day use was also less commonly reported by Erie County students as compared to students statewide 17.6% and 23.3%, respectively. Continued on next page Convene community forums that encourage reasoned reflection and free and open discussion of regional issues. Educate the Erie community and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania about various issues through Institute reports and publications. Foster human networks that enhance communication, link resources, strengthen community participation and build social capital. Promote research, learning, teaching and service opportunities for the Mercyhurst community. Figure 1.

2 Figures 2 and 3 show how alcohol use differed by grade level and includes county, state, and national data (Note: national data was not able for 6 th graders). For lifetime use (Figure 2), a higher percentage of 6 th, 8 th, and 10 th graders in Erie County reported alcohol use as compared to state-level or national data. Fewer 12 th graders in Erie County reported lifetime alcohol use as compared to state and national numbers. Youth in Erie County were more likely to report trying alcohol in their lifetime as grade level increased; there was little increase, however, between 10 th and 12 th graders. The data suggests that most youth who are going to try alcohol have done so by the time they have reached 10 th grade. For past-30-day use (Figure 3), Erie County 6th graders were more likely to report use as four surveys. The percentage of Erie County youth reporting lifetime alcohol use has been decreasing since 2007, with nearly 15% fewer students reporting use in This decline reflects a 26.7% change in the desired direction. The percentage of Erie County youth reporting past-30-day alcohol use has been steadily declining since 2005, with 8.5% less students reporting use in This decline reflects a 32.6% change in the desired direction. Age of First Use In addition to knowing the frequency of use, it is useful to know the typical age at which students begin using alcohol. The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency suggests that 12 th grade Figure 2. Figure 3. Figure 4. compared to Pennsylvania 6th graders. Erie County 8th and 10 th graders were slightly less likely to report use as compared to students statewide but slightly more likely to report use as compared to students nationally. Students in 12 th grade were less likely to report use as compared to both state and national respondents. Erie County students were more likely to use alcohol in the past 30 days as grade level increased. Again, there was less difference between 10 th and 12 th graders than the increase between other grade levels. The following figure (Figure 4) illustrates how alcohol use has changed over the past responses are the most accurate, so 12 th grade data on this topic is reported below. Figure 5 illustrates the age that students reported first trying alcohol, which was 14.5 years for both Erie County and Pennsylvania 12 th graders in According to the data, the age of initiation has increased since Figure 6 shows the age that students reported drinking alcohol regularly, which was 15.7 years for both Erie County and Pennsylvania 12 th graders in The age of onset for regular alcohol use has increased slightly since Figure 5. Figure 6.

3 Figure 7. Figure 8. Attitudes About Alcohol Use Many factors influence an individual s decision to try or use alcohol. In order to measure the attitudes that influence alcohol use, the PAYS asks questions regarding willingness to try alcohol, perception of risk, and level of disapproval. Figure 7 illustrates students willingness to try alcohol. The percentages reported in the figure represent the percentage of students who indicated would use it any chance I got, would like to try it or use it, or not sure whether or not I would use it. In 2011, 38.7% of students reported willingness to try alcohol, which was the lowest percentage in the four years of surveys. Fewer Erie County students (38.7%) were reportedly willing to try alcohol as compared to students in Pennsylvania (46%) in Figure 8 illustrates students willingness to try alcohol by grade. Fewer Erie County 6th, 8th, and 12 th graders were willing to try alcohol as compared to students in those grade levels statewide, though the differences were sometimes very slight. Slightly more Erie County 10 th graders were willing to try alcohol as compared to 10 th grade students statewide. Erie County students willingness to try alcohol increased with each grade level, though there were again smaller increases between 10 th and 12 th grade. The percentages reported below indicate students who reported that drinking one or two drinks nearly every day is a great risk of harm. As shown in Figure 9, 33% of students reported great risk of harm in 2011, which was slightly higher than in 2009 but lower than in 2005 and 2007 (higher numbers are desired). Slightly more Erie County youth perceived a great risk of harm as compared to Pennsylvania youth in Reasons for Adolescent Alcohol Use Figure 9. Enjoyment or Relaxation: Children have cited having a good time with friends and relaxing as reasons for alcohol use. 1,2 Curiosity: Children are often curious about alcohol and its effects. 1,2 Stress: When children worry about grades, fitting in, or physical appearance, they may use alcohol as a way to cope 2,3 Peer Pressure: Youth are susceptible to many outside influences such as peers, family members, and the media. 3 Transitions: Life events such as transitioning to high school, breaking up with a significant other, moving, or divorce can lead children to drink alcohol. 3 Environment: Youth whose peers or parents drink or view drinking favorably may be more likely to drink alcohol themselves. 3 Genetics: Children with a family history of alcoholism are at an increased risk of becoming an alcoholic. 3 Personal Characteristics: Youth who are impulsive, rebellious, or excitement-seeking are more likely to drink. Youth with mental health issues or youth who have experienced abuse are also at higher risk. 2 Brain Development: Research shows that there are biological and neurological explanations for adolescent tendencies toward risk-taking behavior. 4,5 Figure 10. Figure 11. Figure 10 illustrates the perception of harm by grade. 6 th, 10 th, and 12 th grade students in Erie County were more likely to perceive great risk of harm as compared to students across the state, while Erie County 8 th grade students were less likely to perceive great risk of harm compared to eight grade students statewide. 6 th graders were most likely to perceive great risk of harm, while a similar percentage of 8 th, 10 th, and 12 th graders perceived great risk of harm. The PAYS also measures personal disapproval, perceived parental disapproval, and perceived peer approval of drinking alcohol regularly, all of which can influence decisions to use a substance. Personal disapproval was measured by asking surveyed youth how wrong it would be for someone their age to drink alcohol regularly; the percentages below represent students who thought it would be wrong or very wrong. As shown in Figure 11, almost 80% of students personally disapprove of drinking alcohol regularly, the highest percentage in the four survey years. Students in Erie County were more likely to personally disapprove of regular alcohol use as compared to students in the state in both 2009 and 2011, the only years for which state data on this topic was available.

4 Figure 12 illustrates that personal disapproval of regular alcohol use decreases as grade level increases, with nearly all 6th graders disapproving but less than 60% of 12 th graders disapproving. Erie County numbers are similar to state numbers except that more 12 th graders reported disapproval in Erie County. Parental disapproval was measured by asking How wrong do your parents feel it would be for you to drink alcohol regularly? Nearly 80% of Erie County students perceived parental disapproval of regular alcohol use in 2011, which was higher than the county rate in 2009 as well as the state rate in both years (Figure 13). Similar to personal disapproval, perceived parental disapproval of regular alcohol use seems to decrease as grade level increases (Figure 14). Slightly fewer 6th grade and 8 th grade Erie County students and slightly more 10 th grade and 12 th grade Erie County students reported perceived parent disapproval as compared to students statewide. Perceived peer attitudes were measured by asking about peer approval as opposed to disapproval. The data represents the percentage of students who reported there is a pretty good or very good chance that they would be seen as cool if they drank alcohol regularly. As Figure 15 illustrates, the percentage of Erie County students perceiving peer approval of drinking alcohol regularly in 2011 was the lowest in had been in the four survey years. Fewer Erie County students than Pennsylvania students reported peer approval. Peer approval of regular alcohol use increases as grade level increases (Figure 16). At each grade level, fewer Erie County students reported perceived peer approval as compared to students statewide; the difference was especially noteworthy for 12 th graders. Figure 12. Figure 13. Figure 14. Driving Under the Influence The final figure (Figure 17) shows the percentage of 12 th grade students who reported driving under the influence of alcohol. The rates have decreased with each survey, with a 2011 rate of 14.3%. Fewer 12 th grade students in Erie County reported driving under the influence of alcohol as compared to students across the state. Figure 15. Figure 17. Figure 16.

5 Summary & References Summary Overall, the data suggests that Erie students are developing safer attitudes toward alcohol use. Erie County also outperformed in all but six categories when compared to statewide data. With one exception, the 2011 data was trending in the desired direction on all of the categories included in this report. The percentage of Erie County students reporting lifetime use of alcohol had decreased for all grade levels in 2011, though students in 6th, 8th, and 10th grade reported lifetime usage rates in Erie County that were higher than comparable students in the state in Students in 8 th, 10 th, and 12 th grade were less likely to use alcohol in the past 30 days in 2011 as compared to past years; 6 th grade students, however, were more likely to use alcohol in the past 30 days in 2011 as compared to The age of initiation is increasing as well; Erie County youth are older when trying alcohol for the first time and when regularly using alcohol for the first time. Erie County students attitudes toward alcohol are also trending in the right direction and are better than overall state data for It is noteworthy, however, that though students perception of great risk of harm was higher in 2011 than in 2009, it was still lower than in 2005 or Finally, the percentage of Erie County 12th grade students reporting driving under the influence in 2011 was lower than Pennsylvania 12 th graders in 2011 and Erie County 12th graders in References 1. O Malley, P. M., Johnston, L. D., & Bachman, J. G. (1998). Alcohol use among adolescents. Alcohol Health and Research World, 22, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (2012). Effects and consequences of underage drinking. Juvenile Justice Bulletin. Retrieved March 8, 3013, from 3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Talk. They Hear You. Retrieved February 27, 2013, from 4. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (2006). Underage drinking: Why do adolescents drink, what are the risks, and how can underage drinking be prevented? Alcohol Alert. Retrieved March 8, 2013, from publications/aa67/aa67.pdf 5. Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Prevention of Underage Drinking. (2013). Brain research and underage screening Getting informed, preparing to act. Retrieved from meetings-events-exhibits/iccpud-webinar Lifetime Use of Alcohol Erie data compared to PA data 2011 vs Overall D 6 th grade + D 8 th grade + D 10 th grade + D Past 30-Day Use of Alcohol Overall D 6 th grade + C 8 th grade D 10 th grade D Age of Initiation First Tried no difference C Regular Use no difference C Attitudes Toward Alcohol Use Willingness to Try D Perceive "Great Risk" of Harm + C Personal Disapproval + C Perceived Parental Disapproval Perceived Peer Disapproval Driving Under the Influence + C D Warning Signs of an Underage Drinking Problem 3 The following signs may not indicate a drinking problem. The youth may need further evaluation or help if several signs occur at once, if signs occur suddenly, or if signs are extreme. Mood changes: flare-ups of temper, irritability, and defensiveness School problems: poor attendance, low grades, or recent disciplinary action Rebellion against family rules Friend changes: switching friends or being secretive about friends Apathetic attitude: decline in appearance, lack of involvement in former interests, or abnormally low energy level Alcohol presence: finding alcohol in the child s possession or smelling it on him/her Physical or mental problems: memory lapses, poor concentration, bloodshot eyes, lack of coordination, or slurred speech For a practitioner s guide to screening youth for alcohol use, visit: view the NIAAA's Alcohol Screening and Brief Intervention for Youth: A Practitioner's Guide Contact Us (814) civicinstitute.org 501 East 38th St. Erie, PA ][ Strengthening our community through increased awareness and accountability ][

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