Less alcohol consumption among adolescents

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Girls get drunk significantly less often than four years ago, boys continue to drink a lot

Alcohol consumption among adolescents and young adults remains high. However, a current study by the Federal Center for Health Education (BZgA) comes to the conclusion that a slightly declining trend can be observed when young people are intoxicated.

Three years after the start of the largest prevention campaign against alcohol to date, the Federal Ministry of Health, the Federal Center for Health Education and the Association of Private Health Insurance have taken a very positive balance. The director of the BZgA, Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Pott explained that "the first successes that we can record after only three years of campaigning speak for our prevention approach". Current study results from the BZgA show that the proportion of young people between the ages of 12 and 17 who practice so-called intoxication at least once a month has dropped from 20.4 percent to 15.2 percent in the past four years. A gratifying development, but “we are only at the beginning”, because “at 15 percent, the intoxication of young people is still terrifyingly high”, the BZgA director concluded.

700,000 adolescents with risky alcohol consumption Converted a share of around 15 percent means that "more than 700,000 adolescents in this age group continue to drink alcohol at risk", warn BZgA, the Federal Ministry of Health and the Association of Private Health Insurance in a current press release. Prevention offers are therefore "indispensable in the future in order to achieve long-term behavioral changes in young people's alcohol consumption," emphasized the BZgA director. The Federal Minister of Health Daniel Bahr (FDP) summed up the problem: "In this country, children and adolescents grow up in a society in which alcohol consumption is widespread." Alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in Germany. Since the adolescents “strongly orient themselves towards what adults do, it is crucial in terms of prevention to educate young people about the addiction and health risks of alcohol at an early stage,” emphasized Bahr.

Boys twice as often as girls risky drinking behavior In this respect, it is gratifying that the BZgA recorded a significant decline in intoxication in adolescence and also found an increasingly critical attitude of adolescents towards alcohol. According to the current communication, fewer and fewer adolescents and young adults in Germany believe that moderate alcohol consumption has positive effects on health and are aware that an alcohol intoxication can pose a major health risk. However, the experts observe significant gender differences. While girls' risky drinking behavior is declining sharply, young men are still often prone to intoxication. 42 percent of 12- to 17-year-old boys said they drink alcohol every week, whereas the proportion of girls was only 19 percent. Around 20 percent of 12- to 17-year-old boys drink intoxicants at least once a month; for 18- to 25-year-olds, this applies to around half of the boys. Risky drinking behavior is around “twice as widespread among boys as it is among girls and young women of the same age,” reports the BZgA in the current press release.

27 billion euros of economic damage caused by alcohol excesses Overall, regular alcohol consumption among adolescents has decreased slightly, but this should not hide the fact that Germany remains a “high-consumption country”, according to the BZgA, the Federal Ministry of Health and the Association of Private Health Insurance. Today, just under 31 percent of children and adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 still consume alcohol weekly, whereas in 2004 the proportion was still 46.4 percent. For the 18- to 25-year-olds, however, the decline is far less clear (88 percent in 2004, 84 percent in 2011), according to the BZgA. It is encouraging that the previously increasing number of alcohol poisonings stagnated for the first time in 2010. Nevertheless, the economic damage still amounts to an estimated around 27 billion euros today, of which ten billion euros are attributable to treatment costs in hospitals alone, explained the director of the BZgA, Prof. Elisabeth Pott.

Gender-specific prevention campaign against alcohol In view of the clear gender-specific differences in the consumption of alcohol, the prevention campaign should now be more specifically geared to the different needs of boys and girls. In the future, boys and girls will be addressed with gender-specific pictures, texts, posters and cinema spots. In addition, there are plans to expand information on the risks of alcohol on site in pubs, parks, clubs or at festivals. The prevention campaign has so far been largely financed by the Association of Private Health Insurance, which provided the sum of around 50 million euros for four years. (fp)

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