Britain leads way as teenage drinking falls across Europe

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Teenage drinking has declined across Europe, with the most dramatic falls in Britain, the World Health Organization (WHO) has found.

Half of all teenage boys in England drank weekly in 2002, but this figure was down to one in 10 by 2014, the report said.

For teenage girls, the same number dropped from 43 percent in 2002 to 9 percent in 2014, with similar falls reported in Scotland and Wales.

The findings point to significant reductions in adolescent drinking in Britain. Among the 36 European regions included in the survey, England had scored second-worst in 2002 for the measure — but by 2014 the country was seventh-best.

Iceland saw the lowest rate of regular teen drinkers, while Croatia, Malta, Italy and Hungary saw the highest – with more than a quarter of boys in each country drinking weekly.

However, England and Wales were the only countries surveyed in which significantly more 15-year-old girls than boys were found to have been drunk two or more times in their lives.

While welcoming the declines, WHO warned that teenage drinking across Europe remained at a “dangerously high” level.

Europe has the highest levels of alcohol consumption in the world and, in 2016, 10.1 percent of all deaths in the region were attributable to alcohol consumption, according to the report.

“Overall reductions in harmful drinking have been greatest in countries that traditionally have had higher prevalence, such as Great Britain,” said Jo Inchley, who led the report.

“This makes it clear that change is possible; however, more should be done to ensure that adolescents are effectively protected from the harms caused by alcohol,” she added.

The organization recently warned that three million people died from alcohol consumption worldwide in 2016.

‘Generational shift’

Across Europe, 28 percent of 15-year olds said they started drinking at age 13 or earlier, with boys more likely to start drinking early — but the figure was down from 46 percent in 2002.

In Iceland, just 2 percent of girls and 3 percent of boys drank regularly — and the Nordic region led the way in most measures included in the study, with Norway, Sweden and Finland in the bottom five for regular drinking.

“This is a welcome generational shift driven by the way young people’s lives are today,” Karen Tyrell, executive director of external affairs at UK charity Addaction, told CNN.

She suggested social media influences how young people view alcohol, saying: “In the age of Instagram the idea of losing control is often not an appealing one to a group of kids whose every success and misstep can be shared in seconds.”

Tyrell said the change has “very little to do with policy,” adding: “Alcohol has never been cheaper or more available. The alcohol industry continues to target young people directly. The credit goes to young people themselves, not to the adults or policy makers.”