It's culture, not age and sex that influences a youngster's views on alcohol and drunkenness, according to a new study.
Sponsored by the International Center for Alcohol Policies (ICAP), the study claimed that it's the country that makes the difference whether young people get drunk as a purposeful behaviour or as an unintended consequence.
The new research on young people in seven countries, has also found striking similarities about drinking among young people in different parts of the world.
The similarities are- the introduction to alcohol was typically by parents during a family celebration, alcohol consumption was primarily associated with enjoyment and socializing, drinking mostly took place at gatherings (parties, sporting events) and in public venues (bars, clubs), a "successful drinking experience involved socializing and avoided problems, an awareness of drinking as a means of self-medication.
The research was conducted on researchers in Brazil, China, Italy, Nigeria, Russia, South Africa, and United Kingdom. The data from the study is included in a new book, "Swimming with Crocodiles: The Culture of Extreme Drinking."
"Tragically, too many young people purposefully pursue drunkenness as a form of 'calculated hedonism' bounded by the structural and cultural factors that affect young people in different countries," said Fiona Measham, PhD, co-editor of the book and criminologist at Lancaster University.
"We need to work to change this culture of extreme drinking. We need to look at cultures in countries like Italy and Spain where moderate drinking is an ordinary, every-day part of family life," said Marjana Martinic, PhD, co-editor and vice president for public health at ICAP.
The study showed that rates of drunkenness and extreme drinking were significantly lower in the Mediterranean countries than in Northern European countries. For instance, 49 percent of Swedish 17-year-olds report having been drunk, compared with around 10 percent of Italian, French, and Greek youth.
"Changing the culture of extreme drinking requires looking beyond traditional responses and getting all relevant stakeholders involved. This means governments, the public health community, the beverage alcohol industry, the criminal justice system, and civil society must have a role in reducing extreme drinking among young people," concluded Martinic.
She also said that there is a wide range of interventions to help reduce extreme drinking among young people, particularly interventions at three key settings: school, work, and community.