Youth drinking in decline
In many European countries, alcohol consumption among adolescents is declining. Against this background, an in-depth analysis of youth drinking is conducted.
Trends of drinking in different consumption groups are examined and compared to find out whether consumption groups develop in parallel. Further, trends in beverage choice are analysed. Results are compared between countries. Further, associations between drinking motives and negative alcohol-related consequences are examined and compared between countries with a high and low prevalence of heavy episodic drinking (HED).
Data on alcohol consumption were obtained from six waves between 1999 and 2019 of the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Drugs (ESPAD). Simultaneous quantile regression, fractional multinomial regression followed by cluster analyses, and multilevel logit regression models were applied. For analysing associations between drinking motives and alcohol-related consequences, data from the 2019 wave were used.
Trends in alcohol consumption at different levels were not homogeneous. The composition of collective and/or polarising trends varied between countries Also, beverage choice varied between countries and was associated with different consumption patterns in terms of drinking prevalence, alcohol volume, and HED prevalence. No clear geographical structure of the clusters was found. Drinking motives were a predictor of alcohol-related consequences. The strongest of all associations was found in low HED prevalence countries for enhancement motives predicting accidents among boys (OR=3.48; p<0.001). Associations varied by problems, HED prevalence and by sex.
The decline in youth drinking is promising and of major public health relevance. However, more detailed analyses give rise to the assumption that subgroups of adolescents show a less beneficial development. Our results suggest the necessity of population-based prevention and intervention in combination with approaches targeting high-risk groups.