Wānaka Sun       

Survey shows youth drinking in excess

Posted at 6:00am Thursday 15 Apr, 2021 | By Pat Deavoll editor@thewanakasun.co.nz

More than 40 per cent of Wānaka's 13 to 16-year-olds are regular alcohol drinkers, according to a survey carried out by the Wānaka Alcohol Group. 

The "Harming Me, Harming You" survey also revealed the number of young people drinking had increased since the last survey in 2018, many were drinking alone, and the incidences of harmful behaviour, such as stealing alcohol, had risen.

The survey found 43 per cent of those surveyed classed themselves as regular drinkers. Thirty-seven per cent reported binge drinking - consuming five or more drinks over four hours - up 16 per cent in 2018, and friends followed by parents continued to be the main suppliers of alcohol.

About 350 years 9 to 11 students at Mount Aspiring College (MAC) were surveyed in September 2020, with an even split of males and females. Similar surveys were carried out in 2016 and 2018, to map trends.

Overall, 53 per cent of year 9 to 11 students had tried alcohol, with that figure leaping to 83 per cent at year 11 level, an increase of 22 per cent on the 2018 survey.

Wānaka Alcohol Group (WAG) Coordinator, Bronwyn Coers said reducing youth drinking was vital, as there was significant evidence that alcohol was harmful to a young person's developing brain.

"We all have a part to play in reducing harm - from parents having hard conversations with their teens, to placing less emphasis on alcohol at home and community events," she said.

She said there was evidence of students who had been given alcohol by their parents then supplied it to their peers who had not been permitted to drink.

MAC Principal Nicola Jaconsen said she thought it was normal to be concerned about the results of the survey.

“In my experience young people take risks for a variety of reasons, and underage drinking is one risk taking behaviour. Access to alcohol will be a factor in this, but not necessarily as a result of the town's (affluent) demographic,” she said.

“Any statistical analysis gives us a picture. From there we can only be proactive. Education plays an important role in terms of student's understanding all aspects of alcohol consumption - what are normal behaviours, how marketing is used to get people to purchase alcohol, and the health risks. From my perspective it is about partnership with families - each family will have their own values and behaviors around alcohol. Parents are in a powerful position to discuss this with their young people.”

Kahu Youth senior youth worker, Richard Elvey, said while the survey results were worrying, he called on the whole community not to point the finger at young people, but to instead provide guidance and model responsibility around alcohol.

"These young people need an arm around their shoulder and a listening ear, not a telling off. It does take a village to raise a child and we, as a community, need to work together with young people to address this.

"That starts at home - if young people see their parents drinking a lot, it can normalise it for them."

The survey results, which were similar to national trends, had informed recommendations to help reduce youth drinking. These included a whole community approach to the problem; not supplying alcohol to under 18-year-olds; and adults modelling responsible drinking.

Health Promotion Agency analysis of studies nationwide found young people thought drinking was okay and that risky drinking was common practice.

Overall, 61 per cent of young people aged 12 to 24 drink alcohol (38 per cent of children aged 13 or younger and 76 per cent of those aged 17 or older). About a third are classed as binge drinkers and a third as moderate drinkers. 

The 2020 WAG survey results were compiled by Research First and it was funded by the Rotary Club of Wānaka.

“In my experience young people take risks for a variety of reasons, and underage drinking is one risk taking behaviour. Access to alcohol will be a factor in this, but not necessarily as a result of the town's (affluent) demographic,” she said.MAC Principal Nicola Jaconsen said she thought it was normal to be concerned about the results of the survey.

“Any statistical analysis gives us a picture. From there we can only be proactive. Education plays an important role in terms of students understanding all aspects of alcohol consumption - what are normal behaviours, how marketing is used to get people to purchase alcohol, and the health risks. From my perspective it is about partnership with families - each family will have their own values and behaviors around alcohol. Parents are in a powerful position to discuss this with their young people”

Read edition 1022 of the Wānaka Sun here.

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