Italian teens drinking 'to excess'
Young teenagers - and especially girls - in Italy are drinking too much alcohol, a report by the Higher Institute of Health (ISS) revealed on Thursday.
Around 67% of teenagers between the ages of 13 and 15 are drinking to excess, consuming between two and four alcoholic drinks in an evening, the ISS said.
The problem is especially acute among girls, with 31% drinking more than two units in an evening compared with 25% of boys.
''These very young kids are drinking on Saturdays especially, but also in a more limited fashion on other days of the week,'' said Emanuele Scafato from the ISS.
Among teenagers over 16 - the legal age for buying alcohol - around 47% of boys and 31% of girls are consuming more than two drinks in an evening, Scafato said.
Binge drinking is even more extreme for young people between the ages of 19 and 24, but it drops off among both sexes from the age of 25, he added.
A survey of teenagers who regularly drank at discos revealed that police controls and publicity campaigns had little effect in persuading them to opt for soft drinks.
Around 74% of adolescents said that they would be most likely to stay off the alcohol for an entire evening if there was ''an important prize for remaining sober'' on offer, with 70% saying the opportunity to participate in a reality show or other television programmes would also keep them teetotal for the night.
''As researchers, we were expecting rather unusual reasons, but the teenagers astounded us in the replies they gave,'' said Scafato.
''The evaluation of prevention programmes in Italy is rather rare and few have been effective,'' he admitted.
Just 58% cited the responsibility of getting friends home safely at the end of the evening as a good motivation to stay sober.
Pressure from friends or partners (44%), banning the sale of alcohol in nightclubs (31%), police controls (23%) and publicity campaigns (14%) came toward the bottom of the list.
Around 18% said ''nothing'' would persuade them not to drink.
As well as sounding the alarm for juvenile drinking, the ISS said that alcohol abuse was an increasing problem among the over-65s.
A survey of 12 Italian regions showed that around three million elderly people are consuming more than the recommended one alcoholic drink a day.
Men over the age of 65 are drinking to excess at more than twice the rate of women, at 52.8% and 17.5% respectively, according to the survey.
Elderly men were more likely to be overstepping the guidelines if they smoked, were obese, had previously done manual work, lived in the north of the country or believed themselves to be in good health, the ISS said.
Among women over the age of 65, the biggest risk factor was living with a partner whose habits they adopted.
Women in the north were more at risk than those in the centre and south, while those living with children consume less alcohol.
There is no legal age from when it is acceptable to drink in Italy, and Italians start drinking at a much earlier age than other Europeans - at 11 and 12 compared to a European average of 14.
Last year the recent centre-left government failed to pass a bill to raise the legal age for purchasing alcohol from 16 to 18 after retailers' associations blasted the measure, saying it was unfair to make managers of bars and eateries responsible for implementing the clampdown.
According to official statistics, alcohol is a factor in 30-40% of all road accidents in Italy, which has one of the worst road safety records in Europe.