One in 20 youth alcohol addicted

21:25, Sep 03 2013

In a country where teens are often in the firing line in the war against binge drinking, it appears the battle with the bottle does not stop at age 20.

New research shows up to a quarter of New Zealanders aged 21 to 30 have a problem with alcohol affecting their daily lives, making them more susceptible to commit crime, inflict or be victims of violence, and contemplate suicide.

The Christchurch Health and Development Study, a a 35-year study of a birth cohort of 1265 children born in the Christchurch region in mid-1977, is examining alcohol abuse in people in their 20s.

Over the last 35 years, the participants have been interviewed at regular intervals.

The new research is being welcomed by police, who say those in the age bracket are their ''biggest offenders''.

University of Otago, Christchurch researchers conducting this study found more than 5 per cent of the age group had clinical alcohol addictions.


Those people were almost nine times more likely to inflict physical violence on others, and three times more likely to commit property crimes such as burglary, car theft or vandalism.

They were three times more likely to be the victims of violence, and seven times more likely to contemplate suicide.

The group was also promiscuous. Alcohol addicts were almost 11 times more likely to have 10 or more sexual partners and twice as likely to have a sexually transmitted infection.

The study identified a further quarter of New Zealanders in the age bracket had a subclinical alcohol problem - meaning when they drink it has some negative effect on their lives, but is not an addiction.

People with an alcohol problem not deemed clinical are three times more likely to commit a violent crime, and twice as likely to commit family violence.

They are also twice as likely to have been the victim of violent crime, and three times more likely to contemplate suicide.

The study also drew the conclusion that if people in their 20s did not abuse alcohol, violent crime committed by that age group would drop by almost half.

Senior Sergeant Gordon Spite said the research backed up ''what we knew from the start''.

''Alcohol is a very common theme in policing. There has been a spotlight on teenage parties in recent times, but this age group takes up more of our time,'' he said.

Those abusing alcohol in their 20s were prone to physical violence, property crimes and sexual offending to name a few - and were often the highest offenders of each category, Spite said.

''My experience of late night offending is that it's rare to find somebody that hasn't been drinking.''

Researcher Dr Joe Boden said the troublesome youth drinking culture often eclipsed similar struggles for those past their days of teen debauchery.

''It seems that young people don't need to misuse alcohol for a long time before they experience some serious negative outcomes, and often multiple serious outcomes.''

Becoming a parent was highlighted as the biggest effect on minimising drinking, he said.

However, many adults today were having children later which may be impacting on the high number of people in their 20s with drinking problems.

The Press