Comparing a European study that closely resembles the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future survey, the data revealed “dramatic” differences between adolescent behaviors in the U.S. and Europe, according to Lloyd Johnston, a lead investigator for the U.S. survey.
Roughly 27% of American students drank alcohol or smoked during the month prior to the survey, compared with 57% of students in the 36 European countries. Among those countries, only Iceland, at 17%, reported a lower percentage than did the United States.
The percentage of American students who smoked cigarettes in the month prior to the survey was 12%, compared to 28% in the 36 European countries, with only Iceland teens recording a lower percentage (10%) than the U.S.
“One of the reasons that smoking and drinking rates among adolescents are so much lower here than in Europe is that both behaviors have been declining and have reached historically low levels in the U.S. over the 37-year life of the Monitoring the Future study,” Johnston said. “But even in the earlier years of the European surveys, drinking and smoking by American adolescents was quite low by comparison.
For illicit drug use, U.S. students were near the top of the charts, with 18% of teens reporting having used marijuana or hashish in the 30 days prior to the survey, compared to 7% across all European countries. Only France and Monaco reporting higher percentages (24% and 21%, respectively) than did the U.S.
“Clearly the U.S. has attained relatively low rates of use for cigarettes and alcohol, though not as low as we would like,” Johnston said. “But the level of illicit drug use by adolescents is still exceptional here.”