It is estimated that on average 35% of 15–16 year old students in Europe reported binge drinking over the past 30 days.
Harmful levels of alcohol consumption in young people are widespread and are an increasing public concern. Starting to drink alcohol early in life has been linked to drinking problems and alcohol dependency into adulthood.
Although weekly alcohol use in adolescents has decreased in the UK, underage binge drinking is a growing public health concern. Alcohol consumption among children and adolescents can result in a range of negative health effects including emergency hospital attendances due to intoxication or injuries.
An understanding of into the characteristics of young people who are at highest risk of alcohol-related harm is important to inform public health interventions and policies. However, very little is known about the causes of alcohol-related hospital admissions and the associated socio-demographic factors that can influence and contribute to a young person ending up in accident and emergency (such as age, sex, ethnicity, income and education).
This study, led by a team of NCPHWR researchers based at Cardiff University, used anonymised linked data, including demographic and clinical data, on all inpatient and day case admissions in NHS Wales hospitals and for all Welsh residents treated in England. The team studied data from all children aged 10 to under 18 years between the years 2006 to 2011.
- There was a general decreasing trend from 2006 to 2011 in the number and rate of alcohol-related emergency hospital admissions.
- The average age of admission was 15.4 years.
- In each of the four youngest age groups (10–13, 14, 15, 16 years), females had higher incident rate than males.
- Males had a slightly higher incident rate compared to females in the oldest age group (17 years).
- Incident rates increased with increasing deprivation.
- 92% of the admissions lasted one day.
- Most of the admissions (70%) occurred during the last three days of the week with a peak on Saturday.
- The length of stay in hospital was longer in cases when self-harm was present.
- Multiple admissions showed a high prevalence of serious self-harm cases in females.
- The number of admissions with injuries and falls were higher for males than females.
The study revealed that female children and adolescents were more likely to be admitted to hospital for alcohol-related reasons. The data illustrated the significant burden of alcohol-related harm in young people.
This research is of significant importance as the team studied data from the entire 10-18 year old population in Wales over a six-year time period – resulting in a robust set of findings. These findings can now be used to inform new targeted interventions and policies that promote safe drinking practices among young people to prevent future alcohol-related harm during the life-course.