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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 September 2007, 23:04 GMT 00:04 UK
Teen boozing 'stores up problems'
Teenage drinker
Teenage drinking has become a cause of major concern
Teen binge-drinkers are more likely to use drugs, become alcoholics and have criminal conviction, research shows.

A study of 11,000 children found by the time they reached 30 they were 60% more likely to be an alcoholic and nearly twice as likely to have a conviction.

The Institute of Child Health study comes as latest figures show the amount children are drinking is rising.

Experts called the findings worrying as the government said it was looking to cut the harm caused by youth drinking.

The researchers looked at the drinking habits of 16-year-olds in 1986 and then compared that to what had happened to them by the time they were 30.

This study makes worrying reading
Frank Soodeen,
Alcohol Concern

The study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, found they had developed a host of problems compared to those who were not binge drinkers.

As well as being more likely to be alcoholics and have criminal records, they were 40% more likely to use illegal drugs, 40% more likely to suffer mental health problems and 60% more likely to be homeless.

They were also 40% more likely to have suffered accidents, almost four times as likely to have been excluded from school and 30% more likely to have gained no qualifications.

Just under a fifth of the group was classed as binge drinkers - those who had "two or more episodes of consuming four or more drinks in a row in the previous two weeks".

'Social exclusion'

Lead researcher Dr Russell Viner said: "Adolescent binge-drinking is a risk behaviour associated with significant later adversity and social exclusion."

And he added policies needed to focus on a range of areas, not just restricting the availability of alcohol to teenagers.

It comes as figures show that the number of school-age drinkers has fallen slightly, although those who do drink, drink more.

NHS Information Centre statistics show about one in five (21%) of all pupils surveyed in autumn 2006 - that is, aged 11 to 15 - said they had drunk alcohol in the last seven days. The figure for 2001 was higher at 26%.

Of those children who drank in the last week, boys drank more than girls - 12.3 units compared with 10.5.

Alcohol education now has a higher profile in schools across the country and is a major part of the national curriculum
Department of Health spokesman

Frank Soodeen, from Alcohol Concern, said: "There is a significant minority of young people who are drinking from ever younger ages, and with greater quantities than before.

"This study makes worrying reading.

"It confirms the view that early alcohol misuse can effectively haunt a young person well into adulthood, with all the implications to health and wellbeing that that can imply."

A Department of Health spokesman said the government was determined to reduced the harm caused by young people drinking.

"We are preventing the sale of alcohol to children by cracking down on irresponsible retailers and working with the industry to reduce underage sales of alcohol, while continuing to educate youngsters about the harm of alcohol abuse.

"Alcohol education now has a higher profile in schools across the country and is a major part of the national curriculum."

Two graphs showing drinking habits of pupils

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