Young Dutch teenagers are drinking less, impact of new laws unclear

Dutch teenagers up to the age of 16 are drinking far less alcohol than they used to, according to researchers at Utrecht University, the Trimbos addiction research institute and the government’s socio-cultural think tank SCP.

In 2003, 70% of children in their last year of primary school had drunk alcohol but by 2013, this had fallen to just 17%.

In 2003, 90% of 14-year-olds had tasted beer, wine or spirits but by 2013, under 50% had done so. The under-14s are also extremely unlikely to smoke cigarettes.


Utrecht researcher Wilma Vollebergh says parents have become more strict. ‘They realise how dangerous alcohol is,’ she said.

Since the beginning of this year, drinking and smoking under the age of 18 has been banned. This research does not take the impact of that legislation into account and does not show any change in the behaviour of 16-year-olds.

Nevertheless, children who are at trade schools or who come from broken and low income families are still at risk of abusing alcohol.


At the same time, figures published earlier this year showed the number of teenagers treated in hospital for alcohol poisoning was stable last year at 713, despite efforts to stop youngsters drinking.

In 2012, 710 Dutch teens were hospitalised with alcohol poisoning. These figures indicate teenage drunkenness affects children equally across all levels of education.

The average age of the young drunks was 15.5. Boys accounted for just over half the total and the youngest was 12, said researchers from the Reinier de Graaf hospital, Twente University and the Dutch institute for alcohol policy STAP.

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