Young girls drinking more alcohol
November 28 2003
YOUNG girls are increasingly turning to alcohol, rather than other teenage temptations of smoking and drug-taking, according to one of the most comprehensive surveys into the illicit habits of Scotland's youth.
The survey, which questioned 23,000 teenagers across
Scotland, found that while the rates of smoking and drug use have flatlined
among 13 and 15-year-olds, the number of youngsters regularly drinking alcohol
has increased consistently over the past four years.
The large-scale report, carried out by researchers at Edinburgh University and commissioned by ISD Scotland on behalf of the Scottish Executive, is the first to show such a detailed picture of young Scots' relationships with drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol.
The Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (Salsus) found the most dramatic rise occurred among 13-year-old girls, who appear to drink twice as much alcohol as they did in 1990.
One in five admitted to drinking in the week before being questioned in spring 2002, compared with one in 10 in a similar survey 12 years ago. An alarming 15% of 13-year-old boys also claimed they drank more than 21 units of alcohol – the recommended maximum weekly amount for adult males – each week.
The findings show the gap between the age groups is narrowing, with a quarter of 13-year-olds and nearly half of 15-year-olds answering 'yes' when asked "whether they had ever had a proper alcoholic drink".
Teenage tastes also came under inspection. Alcopops, such as Smirnoff Ice and Bacardi Breezers, were most popular with 13-year-old girls, making up 29% of alcohol consumption within the group. Spirits were second favourite, at 25%.
For 15-year-old girls, spirits were most popular, comprising 34% of alcohol intake, but alcopops were close behind at 26%. Boys in the younger group said they drank both alcopops and beer or lager with equal frequency.
Dr Candace Currie, director of the child and
adolescent health research unit, who supervised the research, said: "We have
seen a steady increase in drinking since 1990.
"Also we have found that the age of puberty is coming down – young people are more mature in terms of social and physical development."
Jack Law, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland said: "It's a well known fact that funding for alcohol misuse amongst young people or indeed any other group, has come nowhere near the money invested by the government for illicit drug work.
"Given that alcohol causes at least three times the
number of deaths compared to illegal drugs, the imbalance is clear. Why is the
alcohol message not getting through to teenagers?"
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