Alcohol Intake Increased Amongst Adolescent Girls, Raising Specific Health Risks From Overconsumption
Alcohol consumption by adolescent girls has increased substantially – now on a par with boys – and this may be influenced by alcohol advertising, argues an editorial in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal)
Research shows that alcohol advertising in general and alcohol consumption by adolescents have both increased over a similar period.
“The problem with this equality is that alcohol, all drinkable forms of it, is not an equal-opportunity substance,” writes Dr. Ken Flegel, senior associate editor, CMAJ. “What is at issue is not the equality of drinking choice but rather the inequality of the impact of alcohol on health. On average, women have a smaller body mass than men, with proportionately less of it composed of water, which results in a more rapid rise and higher net level of alcohol in the blood for a given quantity consumed.”
Adolescent girls and women face specific health risks from overconsumption, such as an increased risk of breast cancer in the long term as well as violence, unwanted pregnancy and inadvertent consumption of alcohol in early pregnancy.
The implications for breast cancer are particularly worrying. “We now have evidence that the amount consumed matters a lot. Even as little as one drink a day has been shown to be associated with increased risk,” writes Flegel. “As many girls now start consuming alcohol at earlier ages, this adverse effect is likely to become more burdensome.”
Flegel suggests that adolescents need guidance on the use of alcohol and that parents and physicians can help educate them. “[Children and adolescents] need to be taught that the purpose of advertising is to create a demand where there is no need. When advertising reaches a vulnerable group, such as adolescent girls, they need to understand what it means to be duped by an adult influence that does not have their interest at heart.”