A TV2 poll suggests that one out of five people in Denmark think it is okay for young people to indulge in alcohol before they are 16 years old.
Meanwhile, a survey carried out by the Danish Institute of Public Health reveals that a trend that had seen alcohol consumption among young people decline has started to reverse.
The latest figures show that while four out of five 15-year-olds have already tried drinking alcohol, one out of ten 11-year-olds and one out of three 13-year-olds have tried it as well.
Parents’ alcohol consumption blamed
Miia Nilsson, a co-star in the TV2 program ‘Din teenagers hemmelige liv’, tried to get drunk when she was 13 years old. And she is certainly not alone.
According to the World Health Organization, Denmark has one of the worst records in Europe.
Henrik Rindom, an expert in the field, states several reasons why young people might turn to drinking.
“The parents’ alcohol consumption and norms around their children’s alcohol consumption can have a major impact on how much young people drink and how early they begin,” he said.
Anett Wiingaard from Alkoholdialog.dk agrees.
“There is a direct correlation between how much young people drink and what agreements they have with their parents about alcohol,” she told TV2.
Alcohol easily available to young people in Denmark
According to the Danish Cancer Society, high alcohol consumption as a young person is associated with a higher risk of drinking more than other adults later in life.
In a Megafon survey, when asked if it is important to set clear limits on the alcohol consumption of young people, 56 percent said that children under 16 should not drink alcohol at all.
While 30 percent believe it is the parents’ job to decide how much they should be allowed to drink. Only 1 percent think young people themselves should be allowed to set the limit.
Alcohol is easily available to young people in Denmark, which is one of 12 European countries where you can buy alcohol (beer and wine, but not spirits) before the age of 18.
According to the Megafon survey, 64 percent of Danes believe that the age limit to buy alcohol should be raised to 18, with only one out of four disagreeing.
Alcohol can damage brain development
Henrik Rindom believes it is completely wrong for young people to start drinking alcohol so early. “We would have no abuse problems if we could ensure that no-one indulges in alcohol or drugs until they are at least 20,” he told TV2.
“You run the risk of alcohol abuse later in life, and it is more dangerous because the brain is not fully developed when you are a teenager. Alcohol can penetrate all cells of the body and this is especially problematic when it comes to the brain, which in teenagers is still developing.”