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Teenagers Drink Because There’s Nothing Else to Do, Study Reports

Update Date: Apr 18, 2013 11:12 AM EDT
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In order to crack down on teenage drinking, researchers must first understand why teenagers pick up on the habit at an early age. According to one study, researchers from the School of Architecture, Planning & Landscape discovered that the roles of money and social status as contributors to alcohol abuse might not be as big as previous researchers believed. The new study, headed by Tim Townshend, found contrasting opinions from teenagers living in the North East and South East regions of England, in regards to alcohol. They concluded that teenage drinking starts as a result of boredom, especially if there are no alternatives available for these young adults.

The study looked into the every day lives of 15 and 16-year-old kids from these two areas in England. Before looking into what these teenagers did every day, the researchers observed their surroundings. They found that in North East England, access to nightlife, such as bars and clubs, appears to be very easy. Furthermore, these areas were generally closer to shopping areas and transportation ports, making teenagers more aware of them as well.  As if easy access is not enough, these bars are often loud and colorful, drawing people in.

"Bars and clubs are highly visible in many places where North East teenagers spend a significant amount of their time. For example, a popular indoor leisure complex with teenagers also has nine chain-style bars which they have to pass when entering or leaving the cinema," stated Townshend. The researchers also observed that the nightlight is even more prominent in South East England. Despite the fact that bars and nightclubs were more easily accessible in South East England, the teenagers from this region were less likely to report wanting to go to bars and clubs. The researchers found that since South East England offered more activities, such as parks and youth clubs, the teenagers from this region had a different outlook on drinking, and were less likely to want to pick up on the habit.

The researchers surveyed the participants and found that children tend to experiment with alcohol as early as 11 to 13-years-old. But this early experience usually occurs in the controlled environment of the home. They found the majority of the children from North East England stated that when they turn 18-years-old, the biggest difference in their lives would be going to these bars and clubs. The researchers also found that money does not play a huge factor in terms of the number of activities people do.

The teenagers living in South East England considered alcohol to be bad and 'trampy,' whereas the teenagers from North East England had very different opinions on alcohol. Removing the factors of social status and money, the researchers found that these regions have contrasting Local Alcohol Profile for England (LAPE) scores. These scores measure alcohol consumption's relationship to hospital admissions, disease, and crime and mortality rates. The researchers concluded that access to other activities for young children might be extremely important in dissuading young adults from alcohol.

The study was published in Social Science & Medicine

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