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Study finds more young girls drinking than young boys in B.C.

A new report released today shows some troubling results when it comes to teen drinking, in particular when it comes to girls.

It found younger females are more likely to be drinking regularly and heavily than their male counterparts.

The report, from the McCreary Centre Society, looked at the baseline for youth drinking and those who surpass it. According to the report, about 45 per cent of young people, 12 to 19 year old, have tried alcohol.

But fewer young people are drinking compared to their peers in the past.

“This is the first time it’s under half of young people since 1992,” says Annie Smith from the McCreary Society. “So the trend is definitely moving in the right direction, young people are making healthier choices, but among those who are drinking, that’s when we see the more troubling results.”

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Three or more drinks in a month was found to be the baseline.

“There’s some Canadian low-risk drinking guidelines for older youth and for adults,” says Smith, “so we were looking at if young people drink within those guidelines, do they report better health than if they exceed those guidelines?”

“And most definitely we did see that, but we also saw that certainly for things like mental health and skipping school, even if young people were drinking at what’s considered low-risk levels for older people, we’re starting to see some negative consequences there.”

The study found that the more young people were drinking, the more susceptible they are to passing out, getting into accidents or getting a concussion.

“We also see detrimental effects on mental health, associations with suicidal behaviour, self-harm, things like that, and also feelings of stress and despair,” says Smith.

About 30,000 youth were part of this study.

“Very concerning findings for girls,” says Smith. “Among older girls they’re drinking at the same rate as boys. Younger girls are more likely to be drinking regularly than younger boys, so definitely some worrying findings for girls.”

When they asked why young girls were drinking, the most common answers centred around mental health issues, to manage depression and stress.

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“Even if young people are just drinking on a few days in a month, we definitely see a slightly worse picture than we see if they’re drinking less than that,” says Smith.

The Society is hoping these results can be used for parents and caregivers to talk to children about drinking and drinking in moderation, rather than drinking regularly or drinking to excess.

B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake told Global News in a statement:

We know that alcohol consumption among young people can lead to health concerns.

While the study indicates those in grades 7-12 in BC are generally making healthier choices when it comes to alcohol use than a decade ago, there are still concerns about mental health and risky behaviors related to drinking. We know healthy social connection play an important role in our lives and the report states youth without any close friends were more likely to engage in heavy drinking. Research also shows that open, respectful and caring relationships between children and parents is one of the best ways to prevent problematic alcohol use among youth.

There are a number of resources online available to parents with young children, along with a number of videos to watch with young people about alcohol use.

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