THERE has been a shift in adolescent attitudes towards drinking and smoking, with today’s teenagers taking a more conservative stance on sex, drugs and alcohol than previous generations.
Australia is known for its excessive drinking culture but a recent study of more than 41,000 Aussie teens has shown a significant drop in adolescent alcohol consumption over the last two decades.
Of the children surveyed in 1999, with the average age of the respondents being 13.5, almost 70 per cent said they had already drunk alcohol.
By 2015 that number had dropped by a massive 45 per cent, making high school non-drinkers the norm.
One of the authors of the study, Deakin University Professor John Toumbourou described the trend as a “youth-led revolution”.
Professor Toumbourou told the Sydney Morning Herald that adolescents had shown the most dramatic signs of alcohol moderation in comparison to any other generation.
“They are making changes that are much more dramatic to other age groups,” he said.
The Sydney Morning Herald asked today’s teens their thoughts on drinking and compared it to the attitudes their older relatives had when they were a similar age.
“It’s not cool,” Lily Parsons, 13, told the publication.
“If one of my friends drunk, I would try to stay away from them a bit.”
Lily’s uncle, Ryan Fennell, said views were very different 15 years ago when he was in school.
“If you weren’t drinking, you were strange,” he said. “You were a loser, I guess.”
Drinking has been the most obvious change, with the average age young Australians first try alcohol rising from 14.4 to 16.1 since 1998.
These trends aren’t just isolated to Australia — they are being observed in the majority of wealthy countries.
The number of pubs in Britain is reportedly falling by about 1000 each year as young drinking trends change, with a fifth of 16 to 24-year-olds not drinking at all.
But it isn’t just alcohol consumption that kids are cutting down on. An increasing amount are abstaining from other drugs and sex as well.
Surveys by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction show a rising population have never tried any mind-altering substance including alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, inhalants and sedatives.
Since 1991, the number of students in the US aged 14-18 who reported they were sexually experienced dropped from 54 to 41 per cent, with the country’s teen birthrate dropping by two-thirds during that time.
A lot more information is available to today’s teens and they are increasingly being made aware of the dangers of smoking and drinking.
New technology also means that parents are more educated on how certain substances can affect an adolescent’s brain development.
Prof Toumbourou is among those calling for Australia’s legal drinking age to be raised to 21, following scientific evidence that the brain doesn’t fully mature until people are well into their 20s.