Teenagers Become “Sober Generation” As More Snub Alcohol, Drugs

More Australian teenagers are turning their backs on alcohol and drugs, earning them the title of the “sober generation”.

A study by Deakin University published in the Drug and Alcohol Review has revealed a large drop in teen alcohol consumption and smoking between 1999 and 2015, calling it a “youth-led revolution”.

Researchers surveyed more than 41,000 teenagers across Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland.

In 2000, almost 70 per cent of surveyed teenagers had drunk a full glass of alcohol.

However, more high school students had abstained by 2015, with the percentage falling to 45 per cent.

The study also found that there had not been a rise in other drugs, with falls in tobacco and cannabis use.

Researchers said the secondary school population were moderating their alcohol consumption at a higher rate than adults, who were also reducing their drinking tendencies.

“They are making changes that are much more dramatic to other age groups,” study author Professor John Toumbourou said.

The Deakin University health psychology chairman said a reason was that alcohol was harder to access for teenagers.

“We asked young people about how easy it is to obtain alcohol within their community, and they’re really telling us that it’s become harder to obtain it,” Professor Toumbourou said.

He said the study also found parents had better knowledge about alcohol effects and were limiting supply.

“The change in parents’ attitudes, adults are less likely to provide alcohol at a party, so that it means that setting that might have been occurring in 1999 have stopped.

“It ends up that parents’ attitudes are a big thing that young people are reporting has been a major change,” Professor Toumbourou said.

“Also we think there is a tightening up such that the adults who are serving alcohol in bottle shops are less likely to hand it over when a young person asks for it.”

However, while reduced access was a factor, teenagers were also becoming more health conscious, leading to changes in peer behaviour and attitudes that it was uncool.

“One thing leads to another, as more and more young people and their parents are taking on the message that alcohol is something risky, then peer culture is influenced,” Professor Toumbourou said.

The professor said parents could have been influenced by guidelines introduced in 2009 recommending that teenagers abstain from alcohol altogether.

He is calling for Australia’s legal drinking age to be raised to 21, following scientific evidence about the damaging effect of alcohol on the growing brain.

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