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Snapshot Of Young Peoples’ Alcohol Use

Snapshot Of Young Peoples’ Alcohol Use

More than a quarter of secondary school students who drink report getting into trouble and/or doing something they would not normally do as a result, according to a new report.

This included getting into fights, arguments with the family and breaking the law. More than 10 percent of students report having had sex and later regretted it as a consequence of drinking alcohol.

The report was commissioned and funded by the Alcohol Advisory Council (ALAC) and draws on research collected in the Youth2000 survey - a nationally representative youth health survey released in 2003. The Adolescent Health Research Group (AHRG) at Auckland University collated the alcohol information from the survey to provide a snapshot of secondary school students’ drinking behaviours.

The report says:

More than eight out of 10 students have drunk alcohol at some point in their lives and most of those students continue to drink alcohol. Most students consumed their first drink between ages 10 and 15, with nearly half of students consuming their first drink before age 13.

Many students drink alcohol frequently and in high quantities. Nearly 25 percent of current drinkers drink alcohol at least once a week. More than half of current drinkers have had an episode of binge drinking (five or more drinks in one drinking session) in the past month.

The main influences on why students do not drink alcohol are parents’ attitudes, policies, and legislation. More than 50 percent of students aged 13 and 14 years who do not drink chose not to because their parents do not approve. Additionally, nearly one-quarter of 13 and 14-year-olds do not drink alcohol because they cannot get it.

Most young people who drink alcohol acquire it from friends and family. A surprising number (15 percent) of young people do purchase alcohol for themselves. Only 20 percent of these are routinely asked for identification when buying alcohol.

Many students have home environments conducive to drinking alcohol. Approximately 60 percent of students have easy access to alcohol at home and more than half of current drinkers consume alcohol in their homes. More than seven out of 10 students’ parents drink at home. Fewer than half of the students say their parents would be angry if they knew they drank alcohol.

Students who drink alcohol report a variety of adverse events due to alcohol. A small but significant number of students report they had got into trouble, had been in a fight, or had sex and later regretted it due to drinking alcohol. More than one-quarter of students recently had been a passenger in a car driven by someone who was potentially drunk.

Young people who currently drink alcohol require support in managing their alcohol consumption. Approximately one-third of students who drink express some personal concern about their drinking and more than 10 percent have tried to cut down or give up drinking alcohol.

Commenting on the report, ALAC Chief Executive Officer Dr Mike MacAvoy says the binge drinking figures were worrying.

“This is not just a problem for youth; our research shows nearly half the New Zealand population believe it is okay to get drunk as long as it is not everyday and like the recently released British study there is a determination to set out to get drunk. Indeed, some 300,000 New Zealand citizens set out to get drunk on their last occasion of drinking.

“ALAC is currently heading a comprehensive multi-faceted programme one component of which is marketing culture change aimed at reducing excessive per occasion consumption of alcohol,” he says.

“To develop an intolerance of drunkenness, an intolerance of continuing to provide alcohol to intoxicated persons, an intolerance of supplying alcohol to our young people that places them at risk of harm are just some of the attitudinal and behavioural changes New Zealanders need to make,” he says.

Dr MacAvoy says the report shows young people have relatively easy access to alcohol with most acquiring it from friends and family.

“What is alarming is that 15 percent claimed to have purchase alcohol themselves. This raises serious questions about the enforcement of the law requiring young people to be 18 or over to legally purchase alcohol. The report also highlights the need for young people to be supervised while drinking alcohol,” he says.

“This doesn’t mean watching the television in the upstairs bedroom while 14-year-olds party alone downstairs. Supervision means supervision.

“The fact that a quarter of the students reported getting into trouble after drinking alcohol shows the need for adult supervision to be taken seriously.”

AHRG researcher Peter Watson says the report shows the important role adults have in shaping youth attitudes and behaviours around alcohol.

“Families should be aware that they are the place where many young people acquire alcohol and they should monitor its availability and use,” says Dr Watson.

“Government, communities and families should restrict access to alcohol for under-age youth,” he says. “The minimum purchase age is an important influence on younger students’ decisions not to drink alcohol. As very few students are regularly asked for identification when buying alcohol, enforcement of existing legislation is warranted.”

Dr Watson says parents, caregivers, and people providing services to young people should ask and talk about students’ alcohol-related worries and behaviours.

The full report is available on

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