Does Advertising Increase Youth Alcohol Abuse?

What are the effects of alcohol advertising on young people? Dr Sarah Wollaston's Bill currently being read in the House of Commons addresses that very question. Her statistics and conclusions point out significant health risks and worrying trends that are currently developing amongst young drinkers in the UK.

Early in September Dr. Sarah Wollaston’s private Members Bill calling for restrictions on alcohol advertising in cinemas, on television and online received its second reading in the commons. The reasoning behind Dr. Wollaston’s bill is the strong feeling that young people are heavily influenced and continuously bombarded by alcohol advertising. This creates a culture of drinking behaviours that could possibly lead to habitual alcohol abuse and addiction in later life.

Young people have high expectations of alcohol

The Bill goes into some detail about the startling statistics concerning fatalities caused by excess alcohol intake. It is estimated that 13 young people will die each week and 650 young people will die every year, from drink related problems.  Studies have shown that 25% of deaths of young people aged 15 to 24 are caused by alcohol, equating to two tragic and avoidable deaths every day of the year.

Of course, whether media advertising is one of the main sources of this on-going problem in today’s society is still open to discussion, but Dr. Wollaston is also concerned about how alcohol marketing is put over. She cited the European School Survey which showed our children have the most positive expectations of alcohol of any children in Europe, and they are also least likely to feel it might harm them. Dr. Woolaston surmises that such expectations can only derive from alcohol marketing.

Children fail to learn fundamental life skills

The effects of alcohol on the young person have been known for some time and it is accepted that not only is there a strong link between alcohol intake in early life and adult addiction, it is also clear that alcohol taken at an early age can cause physical damage and dwarf life skills. Taking alcohol from an early age distorts perception of reality and could prevent the young person learning fundamental life skills in dealing with life’s confrontations.

Seeing life through the haze of drink and using it to feel stronger,  as an escape, or to manipulate moods, makes comprehending and dealing with every day issues difficult and does not prepare the child for the reality of adult life. Perhaps most of all, because children are not fully formed in mind or body, alcohol abuse stops emotional growth. Emotions remain childlike and regressed even into early adult life. The pre-frontal cortex of the brain which deals with areas such as decision making could well be affected as it does not form fully until the age of 25. Statistics show that the number  of children showing symptoms of alcoholismare growing and practitioners at alcohol rehab clinics are seeing a fall in the average age of clients. The discussions and debates that will undoubtedly arise from Dr. Woolastons Bill need to be watched for future progress in alcohol treatment.

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