Under-16s drinking less alcohol


A survey among 35,000 secondary school pupils shows that there are increasing numbers of children who have never drunk alcohol

Brains still developing

More than half of under-16s in Flanders have never drunk alcohol, according to an annual survey by the Flemish Alcohol and Drugs expertise centre (VAD) among more than 35,000 secondary school students. This is the first time since the survey was introduced in 2000-2001 that there have been more under-16s who have never drunk alcohol (51%) than those who have.

The minimum age for buying and consuming beer and wine was lowered from 18 to 16 in 2009, and 58% of those surveyed said one of their motives for not drinking was because it is against the law.

From the age of 16, teenagers’ attitudes towards alcohol change. Seven out of 10 older students drank alcohol in the month before answering  the survey, while three in 10 drink every week. “That is worrying, because these young people’s brains are still developing and alcohol has a harmful effect on this process,” said VAD director Marijs Geirnaert.

From 17, youngsters also get drunk more often. Under-16s tend to drink occasionally and are rarely drunk.

The VAD wants to see a new change in legislation, with 18 being the minimum age for all alcohol consumption. Currently, only spirits are banned for under-18s. The VAD believes this would decrease alcohol use among those aged between 16 and 18.

Photo: Ingimage