Study shows half of Australia's 17-year-olds binge drink
THEY are not old enough to drink legally but half the nation's Year 11 students are binge drinkers and one in four are compulsive drinkers who at times lose the ability to stop consuming alcohol.
A new study of 450 students has found an association between alcohol consumption habits of these 17-year-olds and risky and regretted sexual behaviour.
Teens who were binge drinkers were two-and-a-half times more likely to have sex, more likely to regret that sex and three times more likely to have multiple sexual partners, study author Dr Paul Aguis said.
The survey of Australian secondary school students in Victoria has found 50 per cent admitted drinking five or more alcoholic drinks in a row in the two weeks before the survey.
Twenty-six per cent of the teens said in the last 12 months they had experienced an episode of compulsive drinking, where they lost control of the ability to stop drinking.
Forty four per cent of those surveyed said they had had sex in the last year, according to the study published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health today.
The findings support other studies that have shown teenage drinking rates are on the rise and Dr Aguis says even though drinking at this age is illegal "these are issues that are beyond the work we did in the paper".
The study included a good cross-section of the student population, with 75 per cent of those surveyed from public schools and 40 per cent from families earning between $50,000 and $100,000 a year, he said.
What was concerning was that binge drinkers were almost twice as likely to have experienced an episode of sex they later regretted due to alcohol, he said.
Those who reported at least one episode of compulsive drinking in the past year were more than four times as likely to have sex they later regretted due to alcohol, than students who had not drunk compulsively, the study found.
The good news was that alcohol consumption did not affect young people's decision to use a condom.
One in three young people who had sex did so without a condom and this figure remained largely the same whether or not the young person consumed alcohol before sex.
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Risky behaviour: Half the nation's Year 11 students are binge drinkers and one in four are compulsive drinkers who at times lose the ability to stop consuming alcohol.