In this episode of ‘The Alcohol File’ – What is alcohol doing to our children? – we explore a number of issues relating to alcohol and children in Ireland.
In wide ranging panel discussion with Prof. Saoirse Nic Gabhainn, Health Promotion Research Centre, NUI Galway and Principal Investigator for the WHO’s Health Behaviour in School-aged Children Study; Dr Norah Campbell, Associate Professor in Marketing at Trinity Business School, and Dr Sheila Gilheany, CEO, Alcohol Action Ireland explore a number of issues relating to children and alcohol:
the experience children have with alcohol through their teenage years;
consider how are our children recruited into alcohol use so young;
what are the principal drivers behind this behaviour, and
what is the impact of alcohol marketing in recruiting children to an alcohol lifestyle?
Drawing on her work with the Health Behaviour in School Aged Children Study (HBSC), Prof. Saoirse Nic Gabhainn, highlights the progress being made over the last two decades to reduce the risk exposure during adolescence from alcohol:
“the rates of alcohol consumption, and importantly the rates of drunkenness, have been going down. The proportion of children reporting that they have been drunk in the last month has all been changing. ”
Exploring the detail of the HBSC study (published in Jan 2020) Dr. Sheila Gilheany, explains the actual numbers of children drinking today:
‘86,000 children have been really drunk, now 86,000 children is Croke Park on All-Ireland final day … it’s an enormous amount of children.
60,000 children will start drinking every year and every year after that too … it’s not surprising that 93% finish out their teenage years as regular drinkers, joining the EU’s leading binge drinkers…
talking of binge drinking and what it can lead to, it can lead to dependency… something in the order of 6,000 young people in early adulthood are likely to be dependent drinkers’.
Discussing a belief amongst many parents of adolescents that controlling a child’s introduction to alcohol in the home is a safer approach to alcohol, Dr Sheila Gilheany, outlined that recent studies debunk this idea:
‘there is a persistent myth about giving a child, in a controlled environment, a drink at home … the evidence is absolutely clear, those who got sips of alcohol were more likely to drink more and more likely to become binge drinkers.’
While Prof Nic Gabhainn said:
‘it’s really important to underscore that this persistent myth, is not accurate … a number of adults think that if children can learn to drink safely in their own homes that that in some way can protect them … what it does is expose young people unnecessarily to drinking environments and makes them believe they are safer than they are.’
Reflecting on the impact of children’s exposure to alcohol marketing and the early initiation over the teenage years, Dr Norah Campbell, spoke of a shift in the strategic intent of global alcohol brands, developed by alcohol producers, in an age of social media and networking:
‘[the brand] is not necessarily just as a communicator of product but rather as a facilitator of experiences between like-minded groups – an acknowledgment that value comes, not from information exchange between the brand and the end user, but value comes from the brand facilitating experience between users’
“Young people will drink because it is almost an indispensable prop in identity formation and that identity, that every young person wants to form, is one that is counter distinction to the ‘big other’.”
The podcast ‘The Alcohol File’ – What is alcohol doing to our children? is now available at: