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Predictors of risky alcohol consumption in schoolchildren and their implications for preventing alcohol-related harm

Mark A Bellis1*, Karen Hughes1, Michela Morleo1, Karen Tocque1, Sara Hughes1, Tony Allen2, Dominic Harrison3 and Eduardo Fe-Rodriguez1

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Public Health, Liverpool John Moores University, Castle House, North Street, Liverpool, L3 2AY, UK

2 Trading Standards North West Under Age Sales Strategy Group, North House, 130 Rochdale Road, Oldham, OL1 2JA, UK

3 NHS North West/Department of Health, Government Office North West, City Tower, Piccadilly Plaza, Manchester, M1 4BE, UK

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Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy 2007, 2:15  doi:10.1186/1747-597X-2-15

Published: 10 May 2007



While alcohol-related health and social problems amongst youths are increasing internationally, both consumption and associated harms are particularly high in British youth. Youth drinking patterns, including bingeing, frequent drinking and drinking in public spaces, are associated with increased risks of acute (e.g. violence) and long-term (e.g. alcohol-dependence) health problems. Here we examine economic, behavioural and demographic factors that predict these risky drinking behaviours among 15–16 year old schoolchildren who consume alcohol. A cross-sectional survey was conducted among schoolchildren in North West England (n = 10,271) using an anonymous questionnaire delivered in school settings. Analysis utilised logistic regression to identify independent predictors of risky drinking behaviour.


Of all respondents, 87.9% drank alcohol. Of drinkers, 38.0% usually binged when drinking, 24.4% were frequent drinkers and 49.8% drank in public spaces. Binge, frequent and public drinking were strongly related to expendable income and to individuals buying their own alcohol. Obtaining alcohol from friends, older siblings and adults outside shops were also predictors of risky drinking amongst drinkers. However, being bought alcohol by parents was associated with both lower bingeing and drinking in public places. Membership of youth groups/teams was in general protective despite some association with bingeing.


Although previous studies have examined predictors of risky drinking, our analyses of access to alcohol and youth income have highlighted eradicating underage alcohol sales and increased understanding of children's spending as key considerations in reducing risky alcohol use. Parental provision of alcohol to children in a family environment may also be important in establishing child-parent dialogues on alcohol and moderating youth consumption. However, this will require supporting parents to ensure they develop only moderate drinking behaviours in their children and only when appropriate.