A rising number of Australian teenagers are choosing not to drink alcohol, abstaining completely from the social drug, new research shows. The findings of a survey of more than 2,500 young people published today in the medical journal Addiction shows half of Australian teens do not drink.
Between 2001 and 2010 the number of teens aged 14 to 17 abstaining from alcohol rose from 33 per cent to more than 50 per cent, the research shows.
The study looked at 1,477 teens in 2001 and 1,075 teens in 2010. Study author Dr Michael Livingston from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre says the trend away from drinking alcohol is widespread and it also reflects similar studies both in Australia and overseas.
"It's really happening across the whole youth culture," he said. "It's happening for boys and girls, young teenagers and old teenagers, in rich and poor households, for English speaking and non-English speaking groups." ::::
Teenagers drinking less but not turning to drugs The study also shows teens have not abandoned alcohol in favour of illegal drugs or smoking. "In this same group we've seen a reduction in drug use. Quite a dramatic one over the same period,"
Dr Livingston said. "These kids are drinking less; they're not taking drugs." Researchers have theories about why young people are making different choices at a time when alcohol is cheaper and more heavily promoted than ever.
"We know from other survey data the general public is getting more concerned about alcohol as a problem and so we're thinking possibly that's reflected in parenting practices, also in teenagers' beliefs," Dr Livingston said. "There's also a sense that the current generation is very focused on health and well-being and this is one step they're taking to try and stay fitter and healthier."
"There's some research from Sweden that just engaging in [online] activities, social networking and gaming, is associated with less drinking."
Good news for Life Education The study's findings have been welcomed by Life Education, which teaches Australian primary school students about healthy habits. National program development manager Robyn Richardson says the research helps bust myths among young people about drinking.
"Children in primary school are telling us that they know that when they go to high school there's going to be pressures to drink and that most people in high school are drinking and we're actually readjusting their thinking about that," she said. "This report is confirming that normalisation, that there's safe and healthy choices around drinking and it's an OK choice not to drink and it's an OK choice for your friends not to drink. "The reality is most young people are making great choices about their health and safety."