Underage drinking declines around the world

A new study from the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking (IARD) has found that rates of underage drinking around the world are declining.

The IARD study analysed drinking habits in 63 countries and found that underage consumption declined in 44, including Spain, Australia and the US.

According to the study, the countries with the largest dip were Lithuania, Slovakia and New Zealand, which fell by 29, 19 and 18 percentage points respectively. The country with the lowest rate of underage drinking was Indonesia, where 6% of boys and 1% of girls say they have drunk alcohol.

Of the 19 countries that did not show a decline, eight saw no change, including India and Mongolia, while six countries including Mexico and Thailand saw an increase in underage drinking. In five countries the trends were either not illustrated or varied between sexes.

The report analysed alcohol use over the past month, but as no national-level data was available for Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Russia, England, Scotland and Wales, they could not be compared.

Weekly drinking habits for 11- to 15-year-olds was available for these countries and showed that underage drinking declined across each territory.

The report cited increased staff training in the UK, changing attitudes to alcohol in Sweden and education levels in the US as contributing to the decline in underage drinking.

Commenting on the report, chief executive of UK industry watchdog the Portman Group John Timothy said: “This is really welcome and encouraging news. Underage drinking continues to decline across the UK, hitting record lows, with children today significantly less likely to drink alcohol or think that getting drunk is okay than in previous generations.

“Drinks producers and retailers have put a huge amount of effort into tackling underage drinking through robust ID schemes, support for local partnership initiatives and effective industry self-regulation of alcohol marketing. We are now seeing the positive impact of these measures.”

Diageo pledge

This week, Johnnie Walker owner Diageo announced a commitment to reach 5 million young people, parents and teachers globally to educate them on the dangers of underage drinking by 2025.

The drinks giant’s 2025 Positive Drinking strategy aims to encourage moderation and reduce alcohol-related harm. The scheme supports the World Health Organization’s goal of reducing harmful drinking by 10%.

Kate Gibson, global director of society at Diageo, said: “We welcome the fact that fewer young people are drinking underage and are committed to playing our part in ensuring this downward trend continues.

“With our additional pledge to reach 5m people by 2025 we are now set to help make more young people aware of the dangers of alcohol misuse than ever before.”

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