Alcohol Action Ireland (AAI) welcomes the publication of the Health Behaviour in School Aged Children Study (HBSC) 2018 today (Thursday 9 Jan), which provides a very valuable insight into the number of children who, all too early, initiate their experience with alcohol. AAI are pleased to see that there has been a modest increase in the number of school aged children who have never drank alcohol, across all social classes.
Deeper analysis of the data on children who have drank or are drinking, however continues to demonstrate the clearest indication of our nation’s crisis with alcohol.
Amongst children – 10 to 17 years old – who had an alcohol drink in the last 30 days, AAI believe that by co-relating the HBSC 2018 data with CSO population figures, that over 87,000 children – a bigger attendance than a packed Croke Park – have drank within the last month.
Forty percent (40%) of 15-17 year olds (Boys and Girls) – approximately 73,000 – have drank in the last 30 days.
Amongst 15-17 year olds Girls alone, and within the High and Middle social class groups, the 2018 data illustrates a 9% increase from the 2014 survey, who drank in the last 30 days.
Reflecting on the data for children who have been ‘really drunk’ in their short lives:
- AAI extrapolate from the study’s data, and using CSO population figures, that over 86,000 children have been ‘really drunk’ in Ireland.
There is no safe limit for a child consuming alcohol.
- Within the cohort of 15-17 year old Girls we again see a further dramatic increase – 17% – of episodes in the High and Middle social class groups since the 2014 Study.
The study also highlights that the principal sources of alcohol for these children is their parent/guardian (34%), a friend (30%) or a pub/bar/disco (17%).
Reviewing the Study’s data for children who had ‘been drunk in the last 30 days’, AAI extrapolated, again using the CSO population figures, that 37,000 children – three full concert arenas – and many as young as 10 years old, have been drunk in the last 30 days.
Commenting on the study’s data, Eunan McKinney, Head of Communications and Advocacy, at Alcohol Action Ireland said:
I think people will find this data, and our analysis quite shocking, that despite a greater awareness and additional resources, that such levels of our children consuming alcohol persists throughout our society.
The capacity of the alcohol industry to continuously enrol new recruits to the legions of Ireland’s drinkers is staggering. That alcohol – a psychoactive, highly addictive drug – is so casually dispensed to our children, like sweets at a fair, is quite extraordinary. Many place high expectations on our children to be the new entrepreneurs, the future scientists and the innovators yet we seem comfortable to allow such possible destruction of potential.
Make no mistake, these kids will join in short time, the young adults who are the EU’s No.1 ‘binge drinkers’ (18-24 year olds), of whom 15 of every 100, will fall victim to dependency issues by their early twenties.
The current Minister for Health is to be commended for his endeavour to progress some measures within the Public Health Alcohol Act, in the face of heavy opposition. However, a new government, which is likely in the first half of this year, will have to recognise the incredible damaging outcomes this study presents.
A fresh commitment to the objectives and implementation of the Public Health Alcohol Act including Minimum Unit Pricing will be urgently required.
CSO population figures for 2016 indicate the total number for 10-11 year olds is 128,803; for 12-14 year olds: 190,669, and for 15-17 year olds: 183,950.