Poor youths drinking most

By Yvonne Tahana

Survey of 12- to 19-year-olds shows link between amount of alcohol being drunk and areas where poverty is a problem.

Researchers have found New Zealand youths living in deprived areas drink almost twice as much as those in the least-deprived places. Photo / APN
Researchers have found New Zealand youths living in deprived areas drink almost twice as much as those in the least-deprived places. Photo / APN

Adolescents living in the most deprived areas in New Zealand drink almost twice as much alcohol than their peers living at the other end of the scale, a joint study has found.

Researchers from the University of Southern Denmark and Massey University surveyed 1144 adolescents aged between 12 and 19 living in New Zealand across 10 area deprivation levels, 1 being the least deprived.

Their paper published in Health & Place found that at the poorer end of the scale, teenagers drank an average of 96.2ml of pure alcohol or 6.4 serves on each drinking occasion, while t the least deprived adolescents drank 50.6ml or 3.4 serves.

The study also found a "J shaped association" between drinking patterns and area deprivation - youth in the most deprived areas consumed the most alcohol on a typical occasion, but those in the least deprived consumed slightly more than those in the medium bracket.

Maori and Pacific young people drank 81.3ml and 74.3ml respectively, more than double that of their Asian contemporaries who consumed 35.2ml, the lowest surveyed.

New Zealand Europeans drank 47.7ml. No significant association was found between deprivation and frequency of drinking.

A public health worker on alcohol issues for Otara Health, Poutoa Papali'i, said he wasn't surprised at the results.

The reality of teenagers "getting on the juice" in his suburb wasn't pretty.

Young people in New Zealand already didn't need a reason to drink but South Auckland family dysfunction, neglect, not being in school or having a job, poor health, binge drinking parents, sub-standard housing were issues that drove drinking.

"Poverty is what we're really talking about," he said.

"I believe it's a reflection of how they're feeling. A lot of kids feel hopeless, their lot in life ... life seems to have dealt them a raw deal."

He hopes the recently passed Alcohol Law Reform legislation, which opens the way for greater local input in to policy development and liquor licensing decisions will finally deal a huge blow to the density of off-licences in South Auckland.

"Otara is notorious for the amount of liquor shops we have.

"There's a lot of people who don't have any social conscience at all - it's all about the profit."

Under the new legislation, parents or guardians must give consent for minors to drink. It will be a criminal offence, with a $2000 penalty, to supply alcohol to under-agers without such consent.

Statistics show binge drinking among Kiwi teenagers is increasing. Figures published by the New Zealand Drug Foundation show that between 1995 and 2004, the proportion of young people drinking more than six drinks on a typical occasion increased from 14 to 25 per cent in 14-15 year olds, 25 to 36 per cent in 16-17 year olds and 31 to 40 per cent in 18-19 year olds.

Massey University researcher Taisia Huckle said data from a 2004 study was re-analysed after interest from a visiting academic.

International studies of this nature were rare.

- NZ Herald

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