A new study has shown Australian teenagers are reporting lower drinking rates than their peers two decades ago.
The Deakin University study in collaboration with Murdoch Children’s Research Institute accredits the fact alcohol is harder for teens to access for the dramatic drop.
A reduced tendency for parents to supply alcohol to their teens in conjunction with more outlets tightening restrictions on serving minors were reasons for the drop in teen alcohol use.
Survey data collected from more than 41,000 teenagers in Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland between 1999 and 2015 was analysed for the study published in the Drug and Alcohol Review journal.
Lead researcher Professor John Toumbourou, Chair in Health Psychology at Deakin’s School of Psychology, said this was a huge public health success story for Australia.
“It shows parents are making radical changes in their attitude to underage drinking and also how they model their own drinking behaviour,” he said.
“This is a game changer. We can see that parents are taking on the advice from our national health guidelines that even a small amount of alcohol is harmful to teenagers.
“And we believe this is what has seen Australia go from having one of the highest rates of alcohol use by high school students in the world, to one of the lowest.
“It highlights that substantial reductions in alcohol and drug use are possible across large youth populations.”
The “Communities That Care Youth Survey” data was used to identify trends in adolescent reports of alcohol, tobacco and cannabis use and adjusted for demographic and socioeconomic factors.
Researchers found use of all three substances fell dramatically between 1999 and 2015, in line with findings from other Australian health surveys over the same time period.
The Deakin study found parental supply of alcohol to adolescents had dropped to 12 per cent from a high of 22 per cent in 2007, which could be a probable cause for the reduction in teen drinking.
Underage purchase of alcohol also dropped from 12 per cent at the start of the survey period, down to one per cent by the end.
Professor Toumbourou said the findings could now help inform future intervention programs to maintain a decline in teen alcohol use.
“This shows that programs such as school drug education, restrictive underage purchase laws, market regulation, and parent education are all critical in ensuring we protect our young people from drug and alcohol harm,” he said.