ST. PAUL, Minn. - New data suggests Minnesota teens are making better choices when it comes to drinking.

Analysis of a student survey by the State Department of Health indicates that drinking among 9th grade students declined significantly between 2013 and 2016 in a number of categories, including early alcohol initiation, current alcohol use and binge drinking.

The numbers continue Minnesota’s decline in youth alcohol use over the past 15 years. The percentage of 9th graders reporting drinking before age 13 years dropped from 30 percent in 2001 to 11 percent in 2016. Likewise, 9th graders currently using alcohol dropped from 20 percent in 2007 to 12 percent in 2016.

“Youth drinking has consequences. It’s associated with troubles later in life and a host of bad outcomes in high school, such as mental health troubles, fights, risky sexual behavior and poor academic achievement,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm. “It’s important that kids know that contrary to public belief a majority of high school students don’t drink alcohol.”

Research also found that students with so-called "protective factors," such as an absence of childhood trauma and having a trusted an adult to talk to, were significantly less likely to report problem drinking.

For example, among 11th graders, students who felt more able to talk to their mom or dad about their problems were less likely to have tried alcohol before age 13. On the other hand, young people who reported adverse childhood experiences (e.g., verbal or physical abuse, living with a parent who was an alcoholic) were significantly more likely to binge drink by consuming five or more drinks on one occasion.

“What we are seeing in our research is that building on the positive relationships and opportunities in a young person’s life help prevent alcohol use and all the risky behaviors associated with alcohol use,” said Dana Farley, Minnesota’s alcohol and drug policy prevention coordinator.

More good news... Minnesota has a lower youth drinking rate than the nation and surrounding states.