Binge-drinking teenage girls knock back more alcohol than boys
By SAM GREENHILL - More by this author »
Last updated at 23:44pm on 22nd July 2007 Comments
Shock:Teenage girls drinking more than boys
Teenage girls are regularly knocking back more alcohol than boys, a survey has revealed.
Nearly a quarter of girls aged between 14 and 15 admit they get drunk at least once a week, compared with a fifth of boys.
They are typically choosing drinks with a higher alcohol content, such as spirits, over wine and beer, which boys favour.
The research is likely to fuel concerns over the Government's failure to curb heavy drinking among teenagers, who are some of the worst in Europe for drunkenness and binge-drinking.
The latest trend was identified by the Schools Health Education Unit, which questioned more than 20,000 children about their drinking habits.
Although it has been conducting similar research since the 1990s, this is the first year that 14 and 15-year-olds have been asked how often they get drunk.
The study found that 23 per cent of 14 and 15-year-old girls get drunk at least once a week, compared with 21 per cent of boys.
Spirits are the most popular choice amongst teenage girls, with almost a fifth saying they consumed them every week, compared with just 13 per cent of boys.
Of these, 28 per cent admitted to drinking five or more measures of spirits a week - up from 23 per cent in 1991.
Boys' favourite drink is beer, with those admitting to drinking at least five pints a week soaring from 12 per cent to 35 per cent.
Last night, Professor Ian Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said: 'This binge-drinking culture is now going right down into early teenage years.
'We need to find a way to change this as young people who start drinking in this way are more likely to become alcohol-dependent in the future.' Experts have blamed the figures on easier access to alcohol, lack of guidance from parents and impressionable children copying celebrities who are pictured falling out of nightclubs drunk.
The growing 'ladette' culture in Britain has also seen girls come under pressure to compete with their male peers to down more alcohol on nights out.
Last month, it was revealed that the number of drunk teenagers admitted to hospital in England has risen sharply in the last decade - up a third to 5,280, according to Department of Health figures.
But the study also found that the overall numbers of children drinking alcohol has actually fallen.
Since 1991, the proportion of girls consuming alcohol at least once a week has fallen from 52 per cent to 37 per cent, while the figure for boys is down from 55 per cent to 35 per cent.
But experts say a group of heavydrinking children has emerged and is growing at a fast rate.
Teenage girls overtook boys as the group most likely to bingedrink in 2004. The unit's David Regis said: 'There is more alcohol going down fewer throats, and this is not the trend we want to see.
'There is more anti-drink advertising, which might explain the overall fall, but as 18 to 24-yearolds are drinking more, so children who have older brothers and sisters see them as role models.'
Age-based drinking guidelines should be introduced to protect the elderly, according to one expert.
Mary Gilhooly, professor of gerontology at Brunel University in London, says recommended intakes should factor in age as well as gender because the ability to metabolise alcohol declines with age.
Current drinking levels are set too high for the elderly, she added.
The Food Standards Agency recommends women drink no more than two or three units of alcohol per day and men three to four units.