• Thursday, July 25, 2024

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UK leads in child alcohol consumption worldwide: Report

The analysis highlighted a significant concern regarding underage drinking in the UK. By the age of 11, over a third of both boys and girls had consumed alcohol.

The study examined data from 280,000 children aged 11, 13, and 15 across 44 countries, focusing on alcohol, cigarettes, and vape usage from 2021-22. (Representational image from iStock)

By: Vivek Mishra

A recent report has unveiled that the United Kingdom (UK) holds the unenviable position of having the highest rate of child alcohol consumption globally.

According to the findings, more than half of British children have tried alcohol by the age of 13.

Conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO), the study examined data from 280,000 children aged 11, 13, and 15 across 44 countries, focusing on alcohol, cigarettes, and vape usage from 2021-22.

The analysis highlighted a significant concern regarding underage drinking in the UK. By the age of 11, over a third of both boys and girls had consumed alcohol. By the age of 13, this figure rose to 57% of girls and 50% of boys in England, surpassing all other countries studied, reported The Guardian.

The report further revealed disparities based on socioeconomic status. Over half of children from higher-income families admitted to drinking alcohol, compared to 50 per cent of girls and 39 per cent of boys from lower-income backgrounds.

Additionally, the study found that girls aged 13 and 15 in the UK were engaging in drinking, smoking, and vaping activities at higher rates than boys of the same age. Vaping was particularly prevalent among girls, with 40 per cent having tried it before the age of 15.

Dr Hans Kluge, WHO’s regional director for Europe, expressed grave concern over the widespread use of harmful substances among children, emphasising the need for protective measures due to the ongoing brain development in adolescents.

“Considering that the brain continues to develop well into a person’s mid-20s, adolescents need to be protected from the effects of toxic and dangerous products. Unfortunately, children today are constantly exposed to targeted online marketing of harmful products, while popular culture, like video games, normalises them,” he told the newspaper.

Study coordinator Dr Jo Inchley said signs that more children were starting to drink at a young age was “concerning”. “Trying substances is part of growing up and experimenting but alcohol has long-term effects on health,” she, reported BBC.

She said being exposed to more alcohol at home, changing attitudes of parents and the rebound effects after Covid lockdown could all be factors in the trend.

In response, a government spokesperson reiterated the health risks associated with smoking, vaping, and underage drinking, The Guardian reported. “The health advice is clear: smoking, vaping and underage drinking can be damaging for young people and their development. That is why there are age restrictions on the sale of these products,” the spokesperson said.

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