England tops globally in child alcohol use

According to a recent report by global health experts, England ranks highest among 44 countries in terms of alcohol consumption by adolescents. The study revealed that a third of 11-year-olds and over half of 13-year-olds in England have already consumed alcohol. Girls, especially in England, Wales, and Scotland, appear more prone to drinking and intoxication by age 15.

The World Health Organization (WHO) report highlights that the normalization of alcohol poses a risk to children’s developing brains. The WHO urges nations to adopt stricter policies to safeguard children from early alcohol exposure. The report drew data from approximately 4,500 school-age children from various countries across Europe, Central Asia, and Canada during 2021-22 to examine trends in alcohol, cigarette smoking, vaping, and cannabis use among teenagers.

Despite the UK’s historically high rates of youth alcohol consumption, the trend had been declining until recently. Dr. Jo Inchley, a study coordinator from Glasgow University, expressed concern about the resurgence of early drinking, attributing it to various factors including increased exposure to alcohol at home, shifts in parental attitudes, and the post-COVID-19 rebound effect.

The report underscores that the earlier children start drinking, the greater the risk of developing significant problems later in life. In England, about 12% of 13-year-old girls and 9% of boys had been drunk at least twice in their lives. By age 15, this number increased to a third of girls and a quarter of boys. Additionally, more than half of 15-year-old girls in England reported drinking alcohol within the past month.

Harriet Strange, a 30-year-old from Kent, shared her personal story, starting to drink at age 14. Her father’s alcoholism influenced her behavior, leading to a cycle of self-destructive drinking habits. She described how she would ask older friends to buy alcohol for her or take it from home, eventually escalating to the point where she wanted to drink vodka at school. Her father’s death at 16 triggered a downward spiral, but becoming pregnant with her daughter was the catalyst for her sobriety. She has been sober for over three years and is now a recovery coach and volunteer for Nacoa, an organization supporting those affected by parental alcoholism.

The report also delved into other substance use among adolescents. It found that cannabis use had decreased and stabilized, but vulnerable children continued to use it. In Scotland, 23% of boys had tried cannabis, the highest rate among the surveyed countries. Smoking, meanwhile, has declined significantly among children, with only one in five 15-year-old girls in England having smoked a cigarette. However, smoking rates are still higher among girls than boys in England and Wales.

Vaping has overtaken smoking in popularity, with nearly one in ten 11-year-olds having tried vaping. By age 15, 26% of boys and 40% of girls in the UK had vaped at least once. The report cautions that while vaping is considered less harmful than smoking, the long-term effects of inhaling chemicals into the lungs are not yet fully understood. The UK government has introduced measures to curb the promotion and illegal sale of vapes to minors.

Dr. Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, warned that harmful substance use among children represents a “serious public health threat.” He emphasized the role of online exposure and video games in normalizing harmful behaviors like drinking, smoking, and vaping. The report recommends that countries implement stricter regulations to protect younger generations, including limiting the availability of tobacco, nicotine products, and alcohol, as well as restricting advertising and promotion of these substances in mainstream and social media.

Latest articles

Criminals barred from changing names in BC

Canada’s westernmost province, British Columbia, will now prevent individuals who have committed serious crimes from changing their names. This decision follows revelations that a...

Climate crisis making economic crisis worse

The economic impact of climate change is six times worse than previously believed, with global warming poised to reduce wealth on a scale comparable...

UK: Rishi Sunak-Akshata Murty’s wealth rise by £120m in a year

The personal fortune of Rishi Sunak and his wife, Akshata Murty, has increased by £120 million as the next general election approaches, according to...

Is US economy still struggling?

The United States finds itself amidst an intriguing economic surge, which carries implications not just for its own trajectory but also for global power...

Related articles