Alcohol and Under 18’s

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Alcohol and Under 18s

Like many things in life, the information on the consumption of alcohol amongst young people under the age of 18 is a mix of positive and concerning news.


The positive is that the average age at which young people (14 – 24 years) first try alcohol has risen from the age of 14.7 years in 2001 to 16.2 in 2019.  Equally positive is the increase in the proportion of young people who are choosing to abstain from alcohol.  From 2007 to 2019 the proportion of young people aged between 14 – 17 years who abstained from alcohol increased from 39% to 73%.  This has remained consistent in the last couple of years.


At a time when it can seem to a young person all their friends are consuming alcohol, it is good to realise an increasing number of young people are exercising choice and choosing to abstain.


Despite the positives, there is still much to be done in providing information, education, and support to young people around their alcohol consumption.  Statistics indicate that when younger people (14 – 19 years) do drink, they are more likely than other age groups to consume on average more than 4 standard drinks in any one occasion.  Of the top 25% younger drinkers, in this group around half were consuming 11 or more standard drinks on at least one occasion per month and their average drinking session was lasting around 6.4 hours.  


83% of young people aged 14 – 19 years who drink at risky levels reported being injured because of their drinking and 7% had attended the emergency department of a hospital for alcohol related injury  The link between risky alcohol consumption and the Justice system is also well documented

While some young people are drinking at home (18%) many are drinking at friend’s places (67%) with many also drinking at other locations such as a car, park or a beach.  Given these places are unsupervised, it is important to remind and educate young people about safer strategies with their drinking to reduce alcohol related harms.  

For example, things young people can do to enhance their safety are:

  • Don’t pre-load on drinks before going out.
  • Drink water in-between alcoholic drinks.
  • Avoid drinking games.
  • Avoid trying to keep up with or outdrink the others you are with.
  • Have a friend tell you when you have had enough to drink.
  • Go home with a friend.
  • Know where your drink has been at all times.
– Written by David Kernohan, Director of Youth Legal Services

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