Flemish youths on average start drinking alcohol at 14.6 years of age, study shows
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    Flemish youths on average start drinking alcohol at 14.6 years of age, study shows

    Compared with findings in the 2008/2009 survey, regular use of alcohol by Flemish youths has dropped from 22% to 10%. Credit: Pixabay.

    The average Flemish secondary school student starts drinking alcohol at 14.6 years of age, a study by the Flemish Centre of Expertise for Alcohol and other Drugs (VAD) carried out during the academic year of 2017/2018 shows.

    The study, the survey’s for which took place during the academic year of 2017/2018, saw 62 different Flemish schools and a total of 34,626 pupils participate. A sample of 7,517 pupils, as representative as possible of gender, form of education, educational year and province, was then selected, upon which the results of the study are based.

    It found that Flemish secondary school students are starting to drink alcohol later and are smoking less tobacco.

    In terms of tobacco use, the survey reveals that the number of regular smokers among students in 2017/2018 is almost three times lower than ten years before.

    In terms of alcohol consumption, use of the substance by Flemish youth has been on the decline for over ten years. Compared with findings in the 2008/2009 survey, rare alcohol consumption has fallen from 75% to 55% in 2017/2018, use within the last year has dropped from 64% to 49% and regular use has more than halved, falling from 22% in 2008/2009 to 10% in 2017/2018.

    Moreover, between the academic year of 2010/2011 and 2017/2018, students, on the whole, have started drinking alcohol a whole year later, the average Flemish secondary school student starting to drink alcohol at 14.6 years of age, and the older category of students have started drinking less levels of alcohol in general.

    However, despite these positive developments, Flemish youths continue to consume high levels of alcohol and tobacco.

    In the older age groups, 24% 15 to 16-year-olds and 37% of 17 to 18-year-olds use tobacco, and four in ten students under the age of 16 drink alcohol, half of whom indicated that alcohol is easy to get their hands on. In addition, although students are starting to drink later, when alcohol is consumed it is often in large and sometimes dangerous quantities.

    In addition, while students indicated they were less likely to smoke cannabis, use of the drug by students ‘within in the last year’ has remained consistently stable over the past ten years.

    Despite the continuing high levels of alcohol and tobacco use, however, the results “show that continued preventive efforts tailored to the target group are bearing fruit,” said Flemish Minister for Health, Wouter Beke (CD&V).

    In the study, the VAD recommend the continued implementation of courses and campaigns to raise awareness amongst Flemish youths about the dangers and health risks associated with high levels of alcohol and tobacco consumption.

    Evie McCullough
    The Brussels Times