Young teenagers are less likely to follow risky binge drinking trajectories across high school when they participate in structured activities according to a new study from Murdoch University.
The study, which followed more than 1,300 students from year 8 to year 11 in 39 Western Australian schools, aimed to tease out protective factors for teenage binge drinking behaviour.
Professor Bonnie Barber and Dr Kathryn Modecki surveyed the students over a four-year period, asking about their participation in sports and non-sport activities early in high school, their consumption of alcohol across high school, and when they entered puberty.
“We found that students fell into four distinct groups when examining binge drinking pathways,” said Dr Modecki.
“The bulk of students abstained from binge drinking altogether during the study and a further 11% of students only participated in low levels of binge drinking across high school.
“However, there were two groups of students who demonstrated dangerous patterns of behaviour.
“Around 17% of students were heavy binge drinkers in year 8 compared with their peers and their levels of drinking increased over the three year period. A further 6% of students were not heavy drinkers in year 8, but rapidly increased throughout their high school years until they reported the highest rate of drinking by year 11.”
By looking at time spent in structured activities early in high school, the researchers hoped to identify protective factors and behaviours that could be modified to protect youth at risk for binge drinking due to early pubertal timing.
“We found that there was a strong relationship between reaching puberty early and binge drinking, but students did not fall into this group if they were engaged in structured activities,” Dr Modecki said.