Are European Teens Really More Responsible With Alcohol?

Are European Teens Really More Responsible With Alcohol?

This is the fourth installment of a blog series that will dispel the 10 most common and stubborn myths parents believe about exposing children to alcohol. This time we will tackle big, fat myth #5: If we were like the Europeans and introduced alcohol at a young age, kids would see it as no big deal and drink moderately

Europeans drink more than the inhabitants of any other continent on the planet. (Matthias Schrader / AP Photo)

Europeans drink more than the inhabitants of any other continent on the planet. (Matthias Schrader / AP Photo)

This is an intriguing idea and people like the sound of it.  The reality is that Europeans are the biggest drinkers in the galaxy and they have the world’s highest morbidity rate associated with alcohol.  Having Ireland and Russia on the team certainly brings up the numbers, but even southern Europeans consume more alcohol than Americans.  I lived in Germany for 4 years and I have taught at schools in Belgium, Norway, England and Portugal.  The teen drinking in these environments was the most intense I have ever seen in my career of almost 20 years. According to 2011 Monitoring The Future research, roughly 27% of American 15-16 year olds had drunk alcohol in the past 30 days, whereas 57% was the average rate for European teens in the same time frame.  Past surveys of teens in 36 European countries show that young people in many nations are twice as  likely to drink than American teens and most countries also reported greater rates of intoxication.  Kids in Nordic and British Isle countries are getting 3x more drunk than kids in countries in Southeastern Europe.  Southern Europeans tend to see alcohol as part of the food world – this cultural attitude turns out to be a protective factor in relation to youth drinking. There is also a hazard in trying to take one sliver of another country’s social behavior and implementing it in the United States.  The American ecosystem is not prepared to host youth drinking with its present driving and gun laws.  Sadly, those kids who do drink here in the states tend to be maniacs about alcohol – also cultural.  Arranged marriage is successful in countries where there is a social or religious context for it, but it would fail in this country, as we have no structure or support system for that kind of relationship.  It is definitely true that European teens don’t lose their lives drinking the way our teens do and that is truly a worry.  There are some built-in safety nets in European society that make the landscape safer: In addition to not driving, European teens don’t drink in secret, afraid to call for help if someone is ill and they stay closer to home drinking in clubs, cafes and restaurants where adults will intervene if necessary.

Tune in next week for big, fat myth #6: Teens need to practice drinking in high school so they learn their limits early and don’t go wild in college…

ESPAD

1 Comment

  1. Hell no!!!!!

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