Young and Alcohol Free

23 Jan 2017 (Mon)

While alcohol drinking particularly affects the developing brain in adolescence, including impairing the memory and affecting the development of the nervous system as well as reducing self-control ability, early initiation of drinking is an important risk factor for alcohol abuse or dependence and various alcohol-related chronic diseases later in life.

In Hong Kong, a survey conducted in 2015 involving over 2 500 local adults aged 18 to 64 showed that 43.1% of the 1 630 who had ever drunk alcohol reported to have had their first sip of alcohol under 18 years old. In addition, 16.6% of the 1 087 who drank alcohol in the past 12 months said that they had developed a drinking habit below the age of 18.

Of note, having the first sip of alcohol before 18 was associated with a higher frequency of drinking, larger number of alcohol units usually consumed in one day and higher frequency of binge drinking (defined as five or more glasses/cans on one occasion) in adulthood. The survey data showed that 64.8% of those who drank more than three times a week and 66.7% of those who binge-drank once or more a month reported having their first sip of alcohol before 18. In short, those who had the first sip when they were young are more likely to have heavier drinking later in life.

To protect young people from alcohol-related harm, the Department of Health launched in December 2016 a new publicity campaign entitled "Young and Alcohol Free", working with youth and parent groups, schools, healthcare professionals and relevant government bureaux/departments to step up efforts to combat underage drinking.

For more information about “Young and Alcohol Free”, please visit the designated website at http://www.change4health.gov.hk/youngandalcoholfree/.