April 5, 2017
Jennifer Miller, 608-266-1683
Elizabeth Goodsitt, 608-266-1683

Wisconsin Curbs Drinking Culture: Progress Among Youth

Governor Proclaims April Underage Alcohol Use and Abuse Awareness Month

Wisconsin high school students historically have used alcohol at higher rates than their national peers, but an analysis from the Department of Health Services (DHS) shows this pattern is changing due in large part to a network of community coalitions focused on the prevention of unhealthy behaviors among teens.

“Underage drinking is a community problem that needs a community solution,” said DHS Secretary Linda Seemeyer. "This is a serious issue that affects us all. Collectively, we have a responsibility to prevent the dangerous mix of teens and alcohol use. This data shows we have reason to be optimistic that we are making progress in our efforts to curb Wisconsin’s drinking culture, beginning with our young people."

The most recent data from across the state finds that Wisconsin teens do better than their peers across the country in areas such as refraining from drinking before age 13, current use of alcohol, and binge drinking. It’s the first time in the last decade that Wisconsin came in lower than the national average in these three key areas at the same time.

The Alliance for Wisconsin Youth is a statewide organization of 96 community coalitions focused on substance abuse prevention. The legal drinking age in Wisconsin is 21. With training and guidance from DHS staff, these groups have implemented proven strategies that promote the lawful use of alcohol. These strategies include:

  • Workshops for places that sell alcohol on how to check the identities of alcohol buyers to ensure the purchaser is of legal age.
  • Trainings for festival organizers to ensure areas in which alcohol is sold and consumed are setup to prevent underage drinking.
  • Lessons for parents on how to store alcohol safely and securely in their homes.
  • Activities in schools to help student understand the risks of underage drinking.

Drinking before age 21 is linked to a higher risk of anxiety, depression, homicide, other drug use, physical and sexual assaults, poor academic performance, and suicide. In recognition of these health and social costs, Governor Scott Walker has proclaimed April 2017 as Underage Alcohol Use and Abuse Awareness Month.

Starting this month, 44 groups are participating in the “Parents Who Host, Lose The Most: Don’t be a party to teenage drinking” campaign. Through community outreach, these coalitions are alerting parents of the risks of serving alcohol to teens. This annual campaign runs through June, during the prom and graduation seasons, events often seen as drinking rites of passage for teens.

Visit the DHS website for more information on the impact of underage drinking in Wisconsin and ways to prevent and reduce it.