New research with young people from across Europe and North America suggests that early drunkenness increases the risks for a group of adolescent problem behaviours at the age of 15.
The researchers have examined the results of the Health Behaviours in School aged Children (HBSC) survey giving them a sample of over 40,000 15 year olds from over 38 countries where the young people have had some experience of alcohol.
What they find is a positive correlation between those who had experienced early drunkenness and 5 other risky behaviours – smoking, cannabis use, injuries, fights, and low academic performance. Interestingly they report that when a child first uses alcohol to the time they are first drunk did not predict problem behaviours – suggesting perhaps that early drunkenness, rather than the first drink itself, should be a concern for prevention practitioners.
This blog looked at the results from the HBSC survey when they were published last year and there were details about the level of drunkenness experienced by young people in Europe. In the survey young people were asked at what age they first got drunk. The findings presented were for 15-year-olds only and show the proportions who reported first getting drunk at age 13 or younger.
Looking at the results what we see is that the UK has results that should worry our policy makers.
Scotland has the 6th highest level of drunkenness, Wales comes in 8th and England is a place behind in 9th.
It seems to me that it is this sort of data that ought to be driving a proper prevention strategy, and is why across the UK there is a need for a commitment to proper resources for evidence based prevention, and (to be parochial) in England we need:
- the Department of Health to publish their response to the Children’s Health Outcomes Forum which published their report in July 2012.
- the DfE to report on their proposals for health education, first announced in November 2010; and
- NICE to be allowed to finish their guidance on sex and relationship guidance and alcohol education, suspended in May 2010.