June 1, 2006

Girls Overtake Boys as Binge Drinkers: Study

LONDON -- Teenage girls in the UK have overtaken boys as binge drinkers for the first time and are now second only behind Irish girls in Europe, according to a report on Thursday.

The Institute of Alcohol Studies said 29 percent of teenage girls were binge drinkers in 2003 compared with 26 percent of boys. In 1999 the figure was 27 percent and 33 percent respectively.

It said over a quarter of all 15- and 16-year-olds in Britain had been on drink binges three or more times in the last month.

In contrast France, where it is not unusual for children to be given watered-down wine with meals as a way of introducing them to alcohol, had very low binge-drinking levels among adolescents.

The study, funded by the European Commission, found only 9 percent of French youngsters were classed as binge drinkers.

Among adults, Britons rank among the top binge drinkers in Europe, causing widespread damage to the nation's health and social fabric.

The study said British drinkers binge about once every 13 days - 28 days a year - the second-highest rate in Europe behind Finland and Ireland, both on 32 times.

The social cost of alcohol across Europe was estimated to be 125 billion euros (86 billion pounds) from healthcare, crime and work issues.

The study authors said the damage could be limited by increasing alcohol taxation, tightening advertising rules and making labeling on the dangers of alcohol misuse more clear.

"If alcohol taxes were used to raise the price of alcohol in the EU by 10 percent, over 9,000 deaths would be prevented in the following year," according to the study. Alcohol is the third biggest public health problem in Europe after tobacco and high blood pressure.