Underage Drinking in Wisconsin - The Facts

Tragic health, social, and economic problems result from the use of alcohol by youth. Underage drinking is a causal factor in a host of serious problems, including homicide, suicide, traumatic injury, drowning, burns, violent and property crime, high risk sex, fetal alcohol syndrome, alcohol poisoning, and need for treatment for alcohol abuse and dependence.

Problems and Costs Associated with Underage Drinking in WisconsinUnderage Drinking Costs Pie Chart

Underage drinking cost the citizens of Wisconsin $1.3 billion in 2007. These costs include medical care, work loss, and pain and suffering associated with the multiple problems resulting from the use of alcohol by youth.1 This translates to a cost of $2,320 per year for each youth in the State. Wisconsin ranks 26th highest among the 50 states for the cost per youth of underage drinking. Excluding pain and suffering from these costs, the direct costs of underage drinking incurred through medical care and loss of work cost Wisconsin $439 million each year.

Youth violence and traffic crashes attributable to alcohol use by underage youth in Wisconsin represent the largest costs for the State. However, a host of other problems contribute substantially to the overall cost. Among teen mothers, fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) alone costs Wisconsin $19.2 million.

Young people who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence and are two and a half times more likely to become abusers of alcohol than those who begin drinking at age 21. In 2007, 1,417 youth 12- 20 years old were admitted for alcohol treatment in Wisconsin, accounting for 7% of all treatment admissions for alcohol abuse in the State.

Drinking Problems Wisconsin

Alcohol Consumption by Youth in Wisconsin

Underage drinking is widespread in Wisconsin. Approximately 293,000 underage youth in Wisconsin drink each year. In 2007, according to self-reports by Wisconsin students in grades 9-12:

• 78% had at least one drink of alcohol on one or more days during their life.
• 24% had their first drink of alcohol, other than a few sips, before age 13.
• 49% had at least one drink of alcohol on one or more occasion in the past 30 days.
• 32% had five or more drinks of alcohol in a row (i.e. binge drinking) in the past 30 days.

In 2007, underage drinkers consumed 15.0% of all alcohol sold in Wisconsin, totaling $555 million in sales. These sales provided profits of $272 million to the alcohol industry.

Harm Associated with Underage Drinking in Wisconsin

Underage drinking in Wisconsin leads to substantial harm due to traffic crashes, violent crime, property crime, unintentional injury, and risky sex.

• During 2007, an estimated 65 traffic fatalities and 3,200 nonfatal traffic injuries involved an underage drinking driver.
• In 2006, an estimated 23 homicides; 11,500 nonfatal violent crimes such as rape, robbery and assault; and 31,800 property crimes including burglary, larceny, and car theft involved an underage drinking perpetrator.
• In 2006, an estimated 8 alcohol involved fatal burns, drownings, and suicides involved underage drinking.
• In 2006, an estimated 2,600 teen pregnancies and 11,900 risky sexual acts by teens involved alcohol.

Produced by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE) with funding from the Office of Juvenile
Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), November 2009.
1 Miller, TR, Levy, DT, Spicer, RS, & Taylor, DM. (2006) Societal costs of underage drinking Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 67(4) 519-528
2 Grant, B.F., & Dawson, D.A. (1997). Ago at onset of alcohol use and its association with DSM-IV alcohol abuse and dependence: Results from
the Nation Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey. Journal of Substance Abuse 9: 103-110.
3 Office of Applied Studies, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS). (2007).
Substance Abuse Treatment by Primary Substance of Abuse, According to Sex, Age, Race, and Ethnicity.
4 Center for Disease Control (CDC). (2007). Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS).


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