School leavers need the confidence to say no to alcohol

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School leavers who feel they are unable to refuse offers of alcoholic drinks plan to drink significantly more alcohol at end-of-school celebrations than those who are confident in saying no, new research by Curtin University has found.

The research, published in the medical journal Substance Use and Misuse, examined factors that may prevent school leavers from consuming excessive amounts of alcohol during end-of-school celebrations.

According to a survey of 586 Year 11 and 12 students from diverse parts of Western Australia, almost two-thirds (62 percent) reported they intended to drink alcohol at levels associated with a short-term risk of harm, which included more than five drinks on a single occasion.

Lead author, Dr Michelle Jongenelis, from Curtin’s School of Psychology and Speech Pathology, said the survey results documented high rates of alcohol consumption at large-scale school leaver celebrations.

“This research found that those school leavers who believed they would not be able to refuse other people’s offers of alcoholic drinks planned to drink significantly more alcohol during the so-called ‘Schoolies’ period,” Dr Jongenelis said.

“That finding suggests we need to increase leavers’ confidence in their ability to refuse unwanted alcoholic drinks in a bid to reduce the high rates of alcohol-related harm during large-scale youth events.

“We also found that school leavers who believed they would have access to a variety of both non-alcoholic activities and beverages during end-of-school celebrations reported greater confidence in their ability to refuse other people’s offers of alcohol. This highlights the importance of providing school leavers with a range of celebration options that do not involve the consumption of alcohol.”

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Dr Jongenelis said the survey also found that the younger Year 11 students seeking to take part in school leaver celebrations reported they would drink more alcohol than the older Year 12 cohort.

“This finding suggests that the preparation of adolescents for these end-of-school celebrations may need to start much earlier than we might have anticipated,” she said.

“If schools and relevant authorities can start to work with students before they reach Year 11 and 12 about the potential dangers of excessive alcohol consumption and safer ways of celebrating the end of high school, there may be an opportunity to reduce such risky drinking during school leaver celebrations.”

The responses of 586 Year 11 and 12 students including 412 females (70 percent) and 174 males (30 percent) were collected between June and November 2015.

(Source: Curtin UniversitySubstance Use and Misuse)

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Date Created: December 12, 2017 Date Modified: December 23, 2017