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Almost a third of of English youths 'do not drink', 10-year study finds

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By Sallyann Nicholls
Almost a third of of English youths 'do not drink', 10-year study finds
Copyright  PIXABAY

Young people in England are drinking less, a 10-year study has found.

Straying far from its international image as a nation of binge-drinking youths, 11% more men and women under 25, who were surveyed between 2005 and 2015, said they did not drink alcohol (18% – 29%).

The number of people describing themselves as “lifetime abstainers” also rose from 9% to 17%.

The findings, based on data from around 10,000 respondents in annual health surveys conducted in England, were published in the BMC Public Health journal on Wednesday.

“This suggests that this behaviour may be becoming more acceptable among young people, whereas risky behaviours such as binge drinking may be less normalised,” concluded authors of the study from University College London. “Both trends are to be welcomed from a public-health standpoint and should be capitalised on going forward.”

The researchers also noted a change in attitudes toward drinking.

While 43% of respondents admitted they drank more than the recommended daily amount of alcohol in 2005, that number had plunged to 28% in 2015.

And 18% said they binge-drank (consumed more than twice the recommended daily amount) – representing a drop from 27% 10 years earlier.

But the results didn’t apply to youths from all backgrounds. Higher rates of non-drinking were noted among young white people who were also non-smokers, physically active, in good mental health and in full-time education or employment. Yet no significant results were found among ethnic minorities, smokers, and people in poor mental health.

What’s happening in the rest of Europe?

The findings from the study correspond with research conducted across Europe, which has found that overall alcohol consumption has declined among adolescents, but drinking levels have nevertheless remained “dangerously high”.

Analysing data collected from 2002-2014, the research, led by the University of St Andrews in Scotland, showed that 28% of 15-year-olds reported they drank alcohol from the age of 13, down from 46% 12 years earlier.

Around 1 in 10 adolescents also reported being drunk at age 13 or younger in 2014 (8%), which had more than halved since 2002 (17%).

But excessive drinking remained common, with around a quarter of boys and a fifth of girls reporting being drunk two or more times by 15.

The numbers were released by the World Health Organisation at the end of September.

Results also varied across the continent, with drunkenness declining more steeply in northern European countries.

“Overall reductions in harmful drinking have been greatest in countries that traditionally have had higher prevalence, such as Great Britain and the Nordic region,” said Dr Jo Inchley, lead editor of the St Andrews report. “This makes it clear that change is possible; however, more should be done to ensure that adolescents are effectively protected from the harms caused by alcohol.”