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Teenage drinking on the rise, but not everywhere

Fewer teens from western countries are getting drunk on alcohol compared to their peers in eastern Europe, new international research shows. The researchers have also found fewer cultural and gender-based differences, particularly as alcohol marketing activities have attracted...

Fewer teens from western countries are getting drunk on alcohol compared to their peers in eastern Europe, new international research shows. The researchers have also found fewer cultural and gender-based differences, particularly as alcohol marketing activities have attracted more interest over the past 10 years. The report was released online on 4 October in advance of the February print issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. It's no secret that alcohol use raises the global risk of injury, illness and even death. Teens and young adults particularly are at greater risk. 'More specifically, drunkenness has been associated with various adverse consequences and health problems such as fatal and non-fatal injuries, blackouts, suicide attempts, unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, academic failure and violence,' the authors write in the paper. 'A responsive public health policy with respect to adolescent drunkenness requires evidence-based information about the change of this behaviour over time.' The researchers, headed by Dr Emmanuel Kuntsche of Addiction Info Switzerland at the Research Institute in Lausanne, evaluated data from more than 77,500 teens (aged 15; 51.5% girls and 49.5% boys) in 16 western and 7 eastern European nations to investigate drunkenness among adolescents. The team evaluated and tracked the frequency of teen drunkenness by country and gender over time with data gathered in the periods 1997-1998 and 2005-2006. Based on their observations, the average number of occasions that the 15-year-olds had been drunk was 2 or 3. The average frequency of drunkenness in all 7 eastern European countries swelled by almost 40% within the decade. Both boys and girls showed increases, but the rise was more consistent among girls, the researchers said. The frequency, which showed an average drop of 25%, declined in 13 of the 16 western countries. The biggest decreases were found in North America Ireland, the UK, the US, and the Nordic countries. Promotional activity may have helped fuel the drunkenness trend, but changes in socioeconomic conditions may have also played a role in the frequency of teen drunkenness in eastern Europe. 'With the opening of borders and markets of the formerly planned-economy societies, eastern European countries increasingly became confronted with contemporary global alcohol marketing strategies that target particularly young people,' they write. 'While alcohol consumption might have appeared to be part of a new and attractive lifestyle element to adolescents in eastern Europe, during the same period alcohol consumption and drunkenness may have lost some of their appeal to a formerly high-consuming group, i.e. mostly boys in western Europe and North America. 'In these areas, the omnipresence of alcohol marketing may have saturated the market, making adolescents more likely to consider the prevailing ways of alcohol consumption as conformist and traditional rather than innovative.' The researchers suggest that eastern European countries should focus on implementing policy and preventive measures, including limits on promotional advertising and activities, so as to curb teen drunkenness. Western countries meanwhile could promote alcohol-free leisure time activities in order to reduce drinking. Researchers from Belgium, Denmark, France, Hungary, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the US contributed to this study.

Countries

Belgium, Canada, Switzerland, Denmark, France, Hungary, Ireland, Netherlands, United States

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