Britain has the worst drinking among children in the world, the report shows

Britain has the highest rate of alcohol abuse among children worldwide, with more than half of British children having consumed alcohol by the age of 13, according to one report.

The study, one of the largest of its kind from the World Health Organization (WHO), looked at 2021-2022 data from 280,000 children aged 11, 13 and 15 from 44 countries who were asked about the use of alcohol, cigarettes and fumes.

The analysis found that Britain had a significant problem with underage drinking. More than a third of boys (35%) and girls (34%) had drunk alcohol by age 11, and by age 13, 57% of girls and 50% of boys in England had drunk alcohol – the highest percentage of all other countries. country included in the analysis.

More than half of girls (55%) and boys (56%) in England from families with higher incomes said they had drunk alcohol in their lifetime, compared to 50% of girls and 39% of boys from families with lower incomes.

The analysis also found that girls aged 13 and 15 in Britain drank, smoked and vaped more than boys of the same age. Forty percent of girls in England and Scotland had vaped before the age of 15, a higher rate than in countries such as France and Germany.

Graph: smoking among 15-year-old girls

According to the research, around 30% of girls aged 15 and 17% of boys of the same age in England had vaped in the past 30 days, and at a higher rate than in other countries including Ireland, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Portugal .

The study included data from more than 4,000 children in England, and around 4,000 in Scotland and Wales.

Dr. Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, said: “The widespread use of harmful substances among children in many countries in the European region – and beyond – poses a serious threat to public health.

“Given that the brain continues to develop well into our twenties, 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, such as video games, normalizes it.”

Dr. Jo Inchley, international coordinator of the study at the University of Glasgow, said the results of the study were “worrying” because it showed Britain had one of the worst rates of underage drinking and smoking in the world.

“We see very high levels of early introduction to drinking among boys and girls in England,” Inchley said. “Why that is much higher than in other countries, I don’t really know, but it is certainly something we need to look at and do something about.

Drinking figures – graphic

“The big concern is about vaping, but there are also indications that alcohol consumption will rise again, especially among girls in England.”

Dr. Katherine Severi, chief executive of the Institute of Alcohol Studies, said that although alcohol consumption among young people was falling, “Britain is one of the highest alcohol consumption countries in the world, and it is clearly worrying that England has one of the highest proportions of children has. drinking in Europe.

“People tend to have the perception that introducing moderate alcohol consumption to children is a good way to teach them safer drinking habits. This is not true. The sooner a child drinks, the greater the chance that he or she will have problems with alcohol later in life.”

A government spokesperson said: “The health advice is clear: smoking, vaping and underage drinking can harm young people and their development. Therefore, there are age restrictions on the sale of these products.

“As a government we are creating Britain’s first smoke-free generation. Our groundbreaking Tobacco and Vaping Bill makes it an offense to sell tobacco products to anyone born after January 1, 2009 and includes powers to restrict flavours, packaging and displays of vapes to reduce their appeal to children.”