Child alcohol use in England highest in the world, says WHO

Child alcohol use in England highest in the world, says WHO

One third of 11 year olds and more than half of 13 year olds in England have consumed alcohol – the highest level in a new global study.

Carried out by the World Health Organization (WHO), the report looked into child alcohol intake across 44 countries.

Looking at more than 4,500 children, the analysis revealed that the UK had the worst issue with underage drinking.

More than one third of boys (35%) and girls (34%) in England had drunk alcohol by the age of 11. By the age of 13, this climbed to 57% of girls and 50% of boys, the highest rate among all of the countries analysed.

In addition, at age 13, the report revealed that 12% of girls and 9% of boys in England had been drunk at least twice.

This increased to one third of girls and one quarter of boys by the time they reach 15 years of age. More than one half of girls said they had drunk alcohol in the past 30 days.

Also looking into vaping, the analysis revealed a gender difference; girls aged 13 and 15 in the UK were drinking, smoking and vaping more than boys the same age.

Serious public health threat

Dr Hans Kluge, the WHO regional director for Europe, said: ‘The widespread use of harmful substances among children in many countries across the European Region – and beyond – is a serious public health threat.

‘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.’

Dr Jo Inchley is the international coordinator for the study from the University of Glasgow. She added: ‘We’re seeing really high levels of early initiation into drinking amongst boys and girls in England.

‘Why that’s much higher than other countries, I don’t really know, but it’s certainly something we need to look at and address. The big concerns are around vaping, but also there’s some evidence that alcohol use might be going up again, amongst girls in England in particular.’

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