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Headlines Published on 29 October 2008

Title Culture and location influence teen alcohol consumption

New research has shown that culture and geographical location play a huge role in the drinking behaviour of young people. Backed by the International Center for Alcohol Policies (ICAP), researchers have found that it is the social group teens belong to and the country they live in not sex and age factors that determine whether young people drink and get drunk.

Clubs are one of the favourite spots for people to have a good time © Shutterstock
Clubs are one of the favourite spots for people to have a good time
© Shutterstock

The researchers found that drinking habits among young people tend to be more intense in northern European countries versus southern European states, especially the Mediterranean region. Based on their findings, the researchers said that 49% of Swedish teens, aged 17, reported having been drunk at some point in their lives. This is 39% higher than the figure found with French, Greek and Italian youth.

The data showed that despite the actual geographical distance between the teens, a number of similarities were found. For instance, young people usually get their first alcoholic drink from their parents at a family celebration. Social gatherings, such as parties and clubs, are where young people find and consume alcohol, and the consumption is typically linked with enjoyment and social interaction.

The research also indicated that 'a successful drinking experience' was also linked with people trying to forget their woes. According to the researchers, 'an awareness of drinking as a means of self-medication' was evident in the different countries as well. Study participants were from around the globe and focus groups comprised Brazilians, Britons, Chinese, Italians, Nigerians, Russians and South Africans.

Dr Fiona Measham, a criminologist at Lancaster University in the UK, said: 'Tragically, too many young people purposefully pursue drunkenness as a form of "calculated hedonism" bounded by the structural and cultural factors that affect young people in different countries.'

For her part, Dr Marjana Martinic, ICAP's Vice-President for Public Health, remarked: 'We need to work to change this culture of extreme drinking. We need to look at cultures in countries like Italy and Spain where moderate drinking is an ordinary, everyday part of family life.'

Dr Martinic also pointed out that in order to change the culture of extreme drinking, people must look past accepted responses and should encourage all key stakeholders to get involved. 'This means governments, the public health community, the beverage alcohol industry, the criminal justice system, and civil society must have a role in reducing extreme drinking among young people,' she said.

Curbing extreme drinking among young people, said Dr Martinic, is possible through interventions at three key settings school, work and community.

More information:

  • International Center for Alcohol Policies
  • Lancaster University

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