Cutting youth alcohol use could reduce suicide

Annette Beautrais.
Annette Beautrais.
Reducing alcohol consumption in young people could significantly decrease the suicide rate, international researcher Prof Annette Beautrais says.

Prof Beautrais said many suicides, as well as fatal accidents and homicides, were linked to alcohol intoxication. Those who committed suicide were often intoxicated at the time.

"Any control on alcohol would make a difference to the suicide rate. The research is very, very clear. We could make a big difference."

She said depression was already recognised as a contributor to suicide but she thought alcohol was as big a contributor. But it was "hard to get politicians to agree".

She encouraged parents to help their teenagers delay drinking alcohol for as long as possible, particularly as more became known about the development of the teenage brain.

The brain was not fully developed until  a person was about  26, Prof Beautrais said.

Research showed that the younger a person started to drink alcohol, the more likely they were to have problems with it  later.

Some young people were drinking alcohol before they were 13, and regular use of alcohol was widespread in those between 15 and 18 years.

Daily use of alcohol and heavy drinking was more common in males, and New Zealand’s youth binge-drinking culture continued, Prof Beautrais said.

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