Adults 'powerless' on underage drinking


Most adults disapprove of underage drinking but feel there is nothing they can do to stop it, a new survey has found.

The research released by the Health Service Executive shows that adults tend to underestimate their role in influencing young people.

Some 55 per cent of adults think there is nothing they can do to stop young people drinking, while only 20 per cent agree that their drinking habits influenced young people.

A further 20 per cent agree that they would drink less if they thought it might discourage young people from drinking.

The findings form part of a HSE campaign aimed at delaying the age at which young people start to drink. The research was conducted by Millward Brown IMS late last year.

The survey also shows that the vast majority of adults are aware that drinking before the age of 18 is a problem.

A total of 92 per cent agree it is a problem in Ireland, while 71 per cent agree that it poses a health risk.

Some 63 per cent disagree that it is okay for people to drink before age 18, although around 20 per cent think it is okay.

Dr Joe Barry, a public health specialist with the HSE, said it was important that adults realise everyone has a role in reducing the number of young people drinking alcohol.

“While young people on the one hand may seem very independent, their attitudes and behaviours are very often modelled on adult behaviour,” he said.

“Adults and parents can help address the issue of underage drinking by looking at their own drinking and by listening and talking to young people about alcohol.”

On a more positive note, research indicates that many adults are prepared to engage with young people about drinking. Around 65 per cent say they have already discussed this issue, while 63 per cent said they would be prepared to if they felt that person was in danger.

“Many parents and adults don’t know what they should do to encourage young people not to start drinking,” said Dr Barry.

“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.”

Research conducted recently found that Irish teenagers aged between 15 and 17 are the fifth highest drinkers out of 35 countries surveyed in Europe.

There are also significant risks for young people who start drinking before age 15.

A recent report by the Health Research Board found that these young teens are four times more lively to develop alcohol dependency than those who wait till 21; seven times more likely to be in a car crash; and eleven times more likely to suffer unintentional injuries

Heavy use of alcohol during teenage years can impair brain development and cause memory loss, according to health experts.