Fewer teens drink and drive where licensing laws are toughest

Graduated drivers license programs may be successful in keeping young drivers who have been drinking from getting behind the wheel, according to research at Washington University in St. Louis.

Car accidents are the leading cause of death among teens aged 13 to 19, according to the study, and some states, including Massachusetts, have adopted graduated licensing laws that allow suspension of a teenager’s driver’s license for any alcohol-related charge.

The researchers used 1999 to 2009 national survey data for 220,000 teenagers ages 16 to 17 from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System to see whether a state’s driving laws correlated with teens’ drinking and driving behavior.

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Teens who lived in states considered to have a strong graduated license program were nearly four times more likely than teens from states with a weak program to report not driving after drinking any alcohol and to report not being a passenger in a car with a driver who had been drinking.

BOTTOM LINE: Teens from states with strong graduated drivers license programs are less likely to report drinking and driving or getting in the car with a driver who had been drinking.

CAUTIONS: The survey relied on self-reports by the teens, so it is likely that some underreported their potentially stigmatizing behavior.

WHERE TO FIND IT: Alcoholism:

Clinical and Experimental Research, June

Older Americans tend not to be as stressed as younger people, according to a series of surveys over nearly three decades. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University used data from telephone surveys of more than 2,000 people in 1983, and results of two online surveys of 2,000 people each from 2006 and 2009 to see how stress levels changed over time.

All three surveys found that as Americans age, they are less likely to feel stressed. Retirees were among the group to report the lowest stress level, suggesting that retirement may not be viewed as negative, or that older Americans may have learned to adopt coping strategies, the researchers said. Women and people with lower incomes and lower education levels were among the group most likely to feel stressed.

The surveys also found that the 2008 economic downturn most affected stress levels of white men ages 45 to 64 who had college educations and full-time jobs. These men may have feared job instability or job loss, the researchers said.

BOTTOM LINE: Older Americans and retirees are less likely to report feeling stressed than younger Americans.

CAUTIONS: The results suggest a correlation between age, gender, or income and stress levels, not a causal relationship.

WHERE TO FIND IT: Journal of

Applied Social Psychology, June

Lara Salahi