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Health & Parenting

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Why High School Seniors Drink

It's Not Just About Partying, Study Shows
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Dec. 4, 2007 -- When high school seniors drink, partying isn't their only purpose, a new teen drinking study shows.

The study, published in Prevention Science, included more than 1,800 U.S. high school seniors in the class of 2004 who admitted underage drinking.

The seniors completed a survey about their drinking. The survey included a list of reasons for drinking; the students chose all of the reasons that applied to them.

The top reason for their drinking was to have a good time. But there were other motivators.

The students fell into four groups, based on their motivation to drink:

  • Experimenters: Drinking to experiment with alcohol. The largest group.
  • Thrill Seekers: Drinking to get high. More common among boys than girls.
  • Relaxers: Drinking to relax.
  • Multi-reasoners: Drinking for many reasons, including anger and frustration.

Students in that last group, the multi-reasoners, stood out.

They "were more likely to begin drinking at an earlier age, more likely to be drunk in the past year, and more likely to drink before 4 p.m.," Donna Coffman, PhD, says in a news release.

Coffman works at Pennsylvania State University's Prevention Research Center.

She and her colleagues suggest tailoring teen drinking intervention programs to students' motivations for drinking.

Because the study only included high school seniors, it's not clear if the findings apply to younger teens who drink.

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