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Popular Science: No more bottles of beer? Czech adolescents drink less alcohol

Alcohol has been relatively accessible and attractive for teens in the past. In the last decade, however, alcohol consumption among adolescents in Europe has begun to decline. Ladislav Kážmér from the Department of Social Geography and Regional Development, together with Pavla Chomynová from the National Institute of Mental Health, analysed the main causes of this decline.

While alcohol consumption among adolescents under the age of 18 is prohibited by law, drinking alcohol is relatively common among teenagers and is considered one of the serious risks to their future health. However, a recent European research covering the last decade has found that alcohol consumption between adolescents aged 15–16 has seen a significant decline since the turn of the millennium. Adolescents from the Czech Republic have recently followed this general trend.

Alcohol consumption among adolescents grew continuously in the Czech Republic between 1995 and 2011, but started declining afterwards, reaching levels observed in the mid-1990s. This significant decrease occurred in both groups, girls and boys (who generally consume more alcohol than girls do).

According to surveys, teenagers spend less time in pubs than the previous generation did 10 or more years ago. Photo: Zdeněk Kliment.

The different adolescent leisure-time activities are now considered more important because they are also associated with a lower frequency of going out with friends in the evenings to discos, bars, and parties. These changes are subsequently reflected in the lower frequency of alcohol consumption, which most often occurs in groups of peers and friends at this age. However, changes in adolescents’ leisure-time activities do not just happen spontaneously. These changes are likely related to the dynamic global evolution in the face of new information technologies, especially in terms of the development of various mass media or services available on the Internet (social media and sharing their free time online).European researchers have focused on the possible causes of this decline in the past, in particular the implementation of more restrictive alcohol policies, raising awareness of the consequences and health risks of alcohol consumption, declining social alcohol acceptance due to fears of negative consequences, parental monitoring and control or the increased price of alcohol. However, none of these reasons alone could sufficiently explain the existing changes.

The current detailed research used individual data from the ESPAD (European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs) international study from two cross-sectional waves in 2011 (3,699 students from 364 schools) and 2015 (2,738 students from 209 schools), which included representative samples of students aged 15 to 16. Respondents answered questions dealing with the amount and frequency of alcohol consumption in different periods followed by questions about how often students go out with friends.

The results of a mediation analysis between the individual input variables showed interesting conclusions. A substantial decrease in unorganised socialising with peers seems to play a fundamental role in the reduced adolescent alcohol consumption; this was more pronounced among girls (65.4–99.6%) compared to boys (51.1–62.7%). The changes in leisure-time activities have thus proved to be crucial.

A study of the causes and factors affecting adolescent alcohol use, as well as a research into the use of other addictive substances, is particularly important. This knowledge can help in gaining a better understanding of their behaviour and in preventing a variety of risks and negative impacts on their health. Adolescents’ health is characterised by increased vulnerability compared to adults, as it responds more sensitively to negative external stimuli, including substance use. In the case of adolescent alcohol consumption, for example, there is an increased likelihood of liver diseases or a risk of developing alcohol addiction. Intense and repeated alcohol intoxication can even lead to irreversible brain damage, because the rational part of a teen’s brain is not and will not be fully developed until age 25. So here is to a healthy society… perhaps with a homemade lemonade… cheers!

Kateřina Fraindová

Chomynová, P., Kažmér, L. (2019): Leisure-time socialising with peers as a mediator of recent decline in alcohol use in Czech adolescents. Journal of Substance Use. 24:6, 630-637, DOI: 10.1080/14659891.2019.1640304

Published: Nov 02, 2020 02:25 PM

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