UK teens classed as heaviest binge drinkers in the EU

THE GUARDAIN , LONDON

Sat, Mar 28, 2009 - Page 6

The UK government on Thursday faced fresh calls to increase the price of alcohol after research showed young people in the UK reported some of the highest levels of teenage binge drinking, drunkenness and alcohol-related problems in Europe.

British girls aged 15 and 16 are binge drinking more than their male classmates, with fresh evidence that their behavior is contributing to high rates of teenage alcohol-related accidents and unprotected sex. Yet British teenagers were the most likely to claim that they expected “positive consequences” from drinking, such as “forgetting my problems.”

The European School Survey Project on Alcohol and other Drugs is the most detailed international study of its kind, covering teenagers’ drinking, smoking and drug-taking habits in 32 European countries. The UK sample involved 2,179 teenagers: 1,004 boys and 1,175 girls.

The study was carried out in 2007 by the University of the West of England (UWE), Bristol.

Martin Plant, who led the exercise, said: “The UK retains its unenviable position in relation to binge drinking, intoxication and alcohol-related problems amongst teenagers. This problem is both serious and chronic. I hope that the government will prioritize policies that are effective to reduce heavy drinking and alcohol-related disorder and health problems amongst young people.”

UK teenagers ranked third highest, after Denmark and the Isle of Man, in terms of saying they had been drunk within 30 days of the survey, on 33 percent.

In 2003 it was revealed that teenage girls in the UK, as well as Ireland and the Isle of Man, were more likely than boys to have been binge drinking in the previous 30 days.

“The fact that some teenage girls are binge drinking even more than boys suggests that in the UK and elsewhere a profound social change has been taking place. It is clearly no longer socially unacceptable for females to drink heavily or to become intoxicated,” the report said.

Patrick Miller of the UWE said: “Some of the girls who drink to excess will die. The government has a chance to save lives by increasing the price of alcohol.”

Don Shenker, chief executive of Alcohol Concern, said: “Not only are UK children getting drunk more often than most of their European peers, they’re drinking larger amounts when they do. These figures show that the widespread practice of binge drinking in the UK has now filtered down to school-age children.”