Study: Minnesota's 9th-graders just don't drink like they used to

Self-reported drinking among ninth-graders in Minnesota has plummeted since 2001.

Self-reported drinking among ninth-graders in Minnesota has plummeted since 2001. Getty Images

Forgive us, we've been off Twitter for a few minutes: Are we supposed to hate the members of Generation Z? Admire them? Fear them?

And why won't they tell us how to paste a Bitmoji into the Snapchat?

One thing's for certain. The collective olds of Minnesota could take a cue from the youngs when it comes to health. Specifically, liver health. A new report from the Minnesota Department of Health finds alcohol use is on the decline among high school-age-and-younger students.

Among ninth-graders, the rate of students who report drinking has fallen by nearly two-thirds from the previous generation. In 2001, 30.4 percent of Minnesotans in that grade (a group who'd be about 31 or 32 years old now) reported they'd consumed alcohol at least once in the previous month. In 2016, that figure had fallen to 11.2 percent. 

Combined, 17 percent of the 9th- and 11th-graders of 2016 reported "current" alcohol use, compared to 21 percent in 2013. Even the way teens are drinking has changed slightly: in 2013, 44 percent of ninth-grade drinkers admitted to binge drinking; in 2016, that figure fell to 37 percent.

The report notes "signigicant disparities" among different racial groups, and highlights these among female students: Native American (22 percent alcohol use) and Hispanic (17 percent) 9-grade females were more likely to report drinking than those who are white (12 percent), black, or Asian (6 percent, both). 

Students who identify as lesbian or gay (as 1 percent of 9th- and 11th-grade respondents did) or bisexual (5 percent) were more like to have tried drinking before age 13, which the Health Department calls "early alcohol use initiation." 

An even stronger correlation was found between youths who experienced "adverse childhood experiences," such as abuse or a parent in prison. Teens who reported five or more adverse experiences are about eight times as likely to binge drink than those with none. 

The 6 percent combined total of 8th-, 9th-, and 11th-graders who confessed to binge drinking were more likely to say it presents "no risk" (20 percent) than non-binge drinkers (13 percent). But those students aren't completely in the dark about dangers: a combined 50 percent of binge drinkers say the habit poses "moderate risk" (29 percent) or "great risk" (21 percent) of physical or other consequences, though they do it anyway.

OK, so they're still teenagers. They're just ones who drink less (and differently) than... well, than the kind of people who read blog posts about teenagers did when they were that age.