Drinking it all in...

Maybe it’s just that I’m getting older, but there seem to be a lot of young ones out drinking these days.

But then again, according to newly released HSE research, I could be right.

As part of a campaign to reduce the number of young people who drink alcohol the HSE has released research which shows that adults are aware of underage drinking but underestimate its influence on young people.

Of those adults surveyed by the HSE, most are aware that drinking before the age of 18 is a problem: 71 per cent agree that this poses a health risk; 92 per cent agree that it is a problem in Ireland; and 63 per cent disagree that it is okay for people to drink before age 18.

The HSE campaign, which has some eye- opening TV ads running at the moment, looks at public attitudes towards drinking. The aim is to reduce the number of young people drinking alcohol and, critically, to delay the age at which young people start.

The research also found that 78 per cent of adults disagree that it is okay for young people to get drunk and 55 per cent know young people who get drunk regularly.

However, adults greatly underestimate their role in influencing how young people drink: 55 per cent of people think there is nothing they can do to stop young people drinking; only 20 per cent of people agreed that their own drinking habits influence young people (45 per cent disagreed with this ), and only 30 per cent agreed that they would drink less if they thought it might discourage young people from drinking.  

Heaven forbid any of us stop boasting about how many pints we had last night while in the presence of young people. And don’t even think about asking parents not to bring their children to the pub on Sunday, surely that’s no big deal!

More positively though, the research showed many adults are prepared to engage with young people about drinking with 65 per cent having already discussed the issue, and 63 per cent prepared to if they felt that a young person was in danger.

According to Dr Joe Barry, public health specialist, HSE: “Many parents and adults don’t know what they should do to encourage young people not to start drinking. It is key that parents make their feelings about underage drinking known and no matter what a teenager says, most actually do want their parents to discuss alcohol with them. Critically, they want to know the facts and they want limits set for them.”

It’s hard to judge and come down on young people who drink; so many of us have done it ourselves. But for health reasons, if nothing else, perhaps it’s something we need to start to take a little bit more seriously.

After all, young people who start drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependency than those who wait until they are 21; seven times more likely to be in a car crash; and 11 times more likely to suffer unintentional injuries.


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