Rural adolescent alcohol use is a complex social problem. Using data from the 2008-2009 National Survey of Drug Use and Health, this study by the Maine Rural Health Research Center examines alcohol use among rural and urban adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17. After controlling for a broad range of key risk and protective factors, it is clear that an unexplained rural effect persists with rural adolescents still exhibiting higher alcohol use than their urban counterparts. Our findings suggest that rural adolescents who start drinking at an earlier age are more likely to engage in problem drinking behavior as they get older, leading to a need for interventions that target preteens and younger adolescents. Moreover, we found urban-rural differences in specific protective factors, which may be the most promising for evidence-based, rural-specific prevention strategies targeting parents, schools, and churches.
John Gale, Jennifer Lenardson, David Lambert, David Hartley