Teenagers drank more than $17 billion worth of alcohol in 2016, a new study finds. Here’s why experts worry that COVID-19 has fueled the fire of underage drinking.

  • A study found that young people in the US consumed more than $17 billion worth of alcohol in 2016.
  • One co-author of the study named hard seltzers as a driver of underage alcohol consumption.
  • A psychiatrist told Insider that the pandemic has exacerbated alcohol consumption among youth.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Underage youths consumed nearly one-tenth of all the alcoholic drinks sold in the US in 2016, according to a new study, and experts are concerned the trend might have worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study by researchers at the University of North Carolina specifically reviewed alcohol consumption among youths ages 12-20.

It found that people in that age group had imbibed $17.5 billion worth of alcoholic beverages sold that year, or about 8.6% of the 2016 total. The findings were published this month in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

Beverages produced by three manufacturers – AB Inbev, MillerCoors, and Diageo – represented almost half of all of the alcohol consumed by the underaged demographic, the study found.

Pamela Trangenstein, a co-lead author of the study, told Insider in an interview that marketing plays a significant role in driving the consumption of alcohol among young people.

“The research shows time and time again that young people, if they haven’t started to drink or if they’re exposed to alcohol advertising over time – they’re more likely to start drinking. If they’ve already started drinking, they’re more likely to progress to heavier drinking,” said Trangenstein, who is an assistant professor of health behavior at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health.

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