Have declines in the prevalence of young adult drinking in English-speaking high-income countries followed declines in youth drinking? A systematic review


Alcohol use in early adulthood is a significant public health concern. The prevalence of adolescent alcohol consumption has been declining in high-income English-speaking countries since the early 2000s. This review aims to examine whether this trend continues in young adulthood.


We systematically searched Medline, PsycInfo and CINAHL and the grey literature. Eligible records reported the prevalence of alcohol consumption amongst 18–25-year-olds over a minimum three-year time frame in the United States (US), Canada, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. Results were described using narrative synthesis. Quality assessment was undertaken using the Joanna Briggs Institute Critical Appraisal Checklist for Prevalence Studies.

Results and conclusion

Thirty-two records from 22 different surveys were included. The prevalence of consumption amongst young adults fell in Australia, Ireland, and the United Kingdom and was stable in New Zealand and Canada. In the US, there was evidence of a decline in the prevalence of drinking among under-21s, but results for adults over the minimum purchase age were mixed. The prevalence of alcohol consumption in young adults appears to be broadly declining. This could lead to reduced rates of alcohol-related harms in the future. Further high-quality multinational surveys may help to confirm this trend.

Additional Info

  • Authors

    Dunphy Jessica; Vieira Emma; Stevely Abigail K.; Livingston Michael; Vashishtha Rakhi; Rivelin Kirsten; Holmes John
  • Issue

    Periodical: Drugs: education, prevention and policy