The Young People and Alcohol report, derived from Youth’07 survey data, provides a comparative snapshot of over 9000 secondary school students in 2007.
Its overall findings show that young people in 2007 were not only less likely to be regular drinkers than their 2001 counterparts but also less likely to consider teenage drinking as acceptable. On the other hand, among those who did drink alcohol, 57% reported binge drinking at least once in the month prior to the survey, a significant increase from 49% in 2001.
Professor Shanthi Ameratunga, the deputy head of the School of Population Health who led the report team, says: “Overall there appears to be a greater awareness that teen drinking is not necessarily a good thing, so it seems that message is getting through. However among the findings there were some areas that should be of real concern to us all as a society.”
“One particularly worrying finding is that nearly one quarter of all the students, whether drinkers or not, had been driven by someone who was potentially drunk during the prior month. Apart from that, 8% of the students who were also drivers had driven a motor vehicle while potentially drunk during the previous month. These findings are consistent with the completely unacceptable loss of young lives in alcohol-involved crashes on New Zealand roads.”
The report also shows that 19% of students who were current drinkers were worried about how much they drank or had tried to cut down or give up.
Professor Ameratunga says: “It would be easy to say that the problem rests with our youth but that would ignore a much bigger societal problem in an environment where alcohol is cheap and widely promoted as a social lubricant.”
Since this survey was undertaken the Government has introduced a zero alcohol tolerance for young drivers. However the report findings and the well-established body of research evidence strengthen the arguments for more proactive strategies that limit harm from alcohol among young people in New Zealand.
The report also examines drinking perceptions and behaviours for Maori and Pacific youth.
Sarah Helm, Youth manager for ALAC which funded the report, says: “We are very pleased about the positive trend towards non-drinking as the longer people delay drinking the less likely they are to go onto drink harmfully. However we continue to be very concerned about binge drinking.”
ALAC is commissioning further research to investigate how to best support teens who are concerned about their drinking.