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Alcohol Education Helps Change Drinking Behaviours In Young People

A recent review of 70 studies on alcohol education programmes targeted toward young people (15-24 years) has shown they can positively change alcohol-related behaviours, attitudes, and knowledge. Key attributes of high-quality programmes include culturally and context-sensitive content, information about peer behaviours and social norms, taking an interactive approach, providing targeted age-appropriate information, and skills training to build resilience.

“The research shows 58% of the alcohol education programmes evaluated resulted in positive behaviour changes, and a further 17% impacted attitudes and/or knowledge. We know good education works – so it’s pleasing to see further research that supports the basic principle that education can make a difference toward reducing alcohol-related harm in young people and encouraging more responsible drinking behaviours in adults,” said NZ Alcohol Beverages Council Executive Director Bridget MacDonald.

“This aligns with industry research that shows 75% of Kiwis agree that targeted education and support programmes are the best way to reduce harmful drinking. Education has to role to play in supporting the generational shifts we see in better behaviours and attitudes toward alcohol,” says Bridget.

“Industry research also shows 88% of New Zealanders support alcohol education programmes in schools. This is why the industry supports the ‘Smashed’ theatre-in-schools education programme delivered by Life Education Trust, which aims to delay drinking in young people. Teenagers’ brains are still developing, so it’s best to delay introducing teens to alcohol for as long as possible. The programme uses interactive workshops to equip Year 9 students with the skills they need to resist peer pressure to drink alcohol and provides information so they can make informed and better decisions around alcohol and ideally not drink until they are adults,” says Bridget.

Bridget says the Smashed programme also shows that targeted education messaging can influence behaviours. Since 2019, over 35,000 students have engaged with the programme. As a result, research in 2019 showed 91% said they are less likely to drink alcohol before they turn 18 years old, and 84% said they felt better equipped to make the right choices about drinking alcohol. In its third year, Smashed provides a safe space for teens to explore relatable real-life issues and talk about peer pressure and alcohol, with 85% saying the programme was a good way to learn about the dangers of underage drinking.

“We also know parents are the biggest influence on a teen’s decisions and behaviours relating to alcohol. is a good place for parents to find tips on how to have conversations about alcohol with their teens and how adults can be a good role model by drinking responsibly,” says Bridget.

“We are seeing the momentum for change in behaviours and attitudes toward alcohol in New Zealand through positive trends such as fewer younger people drinking, a general decline in hazardous drinking, overall consumption decreasing, and we consume less alcohol per capita than the OECD average. Kiwis are more mindful in choosing more no- and low-alcohol drinks to suit their lifestyle or social situation,” Bridget says.

“We all have a part to play in reducing alcohol-related harm, and we need to take a pragmatic approach. Targeted education programmes are sensible solutions to helping educate young people on alcohol-related harm and encouraging adults to make better decisions around drinking. We also need targeted support initiatives to assist those who need it,” says Bridget.

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