Background: Trends in alcohol drinking prevalence were assessed among Japanese adolescents, and possible reasons for a decrease in drinking prevalence observed in 2004.
Methods: Cross-sectional nationwide surveys were conducted periodically. High schools were randomly sampled from throughout Japan in 1996, 2000, and 2004. All enrolled students in sampled schools were subjects of the surveys. Self-reporting anonymous questionnaires were collected from 115,814 students in 1996, 106,297 in 2000, and 102,451 in 2004. Questions about drinking prevalence of students and family members, proportion of students who have no friends, and sources of alcohol were included. Students who drunk at least one day of the 30 days preceding the survey were defined as the current drinkers.
Results: The drinking prevalence in 2004 was decreased in comparison to that in 1996 and 2000 in both sexes and in all school grades. The current drinking rate (monthly drinker) among junior high school boys was 29.4% in 1996, 29.0% in 2000, and 20.5% in 2004, while that among senior high school boys was 49.7%, 48.7%, and 36.2%, respectively. The respective prevalence among junior and senior girls was 24.0%, 25.5%, and 20.0% and 40.8%, 42.1%, and 34.1%. The prevalent sources of alcohol beverages were searching in home, stores (convenience store, supermarket, or gas-stand), liquor shops, and bars. An analysis of the reasons for this decrease identified a decrease in drinking prevalence in students' families, especially by fathers and older brothers, and an increase in the proportion of students who had no friends.
Conclusions: A decrease in drinking prevalence of male family members and a limitation of sources of alcoholic beverages may contribute to the decrease in adolescent drinking prevalence.