Boys who drink alcohol when youths are more likely to be risky consumers in early adulthood, potentially resulting in injury, a new study has found.
And the results are more concerning in regional areas.
The findings are the latest to be released from the Australian Institute of Family Studies' 'Ten to Men' survey, which followed about 16,000 males aged 10 and over since 2013.
The study aims to fill knowledge gaps about why males on average have worse health outcomes than females.
Boys aged 15 to 17 in 2013 and 2014 who drank alcohol were more likely to be engaging in riskier alcohol use when re-interviewed as adults. That's compared to men who did not drink as adolescents, according to the study's new report, "Alcohol use among Australian males".
"One of the key messages from this is that we need to try and delay children and adolescent males from engaging in alcohol use for as long as possible, ideally until the recommended age of 18," report lead author Brendan Quinn said.
"Kids who engage in alcohol use are more likely to experience alcohol-related harms or engage in more harmful alcohol-related behaviours later in life."
Of the boys aged 15 to 17, 45 per cent had consumed alcohol at least once, 31 per cent drank on a monthly basis, and about 17 per cent drank weekly or more often.
Of the young men who engaged in underage drinking, 47 per cent were consuming alcohol at moderate to high-risk levels two years later.
By comparison, 20 per cent of those who didn't drink underage engaged in risky behaviour as young adults.
Most men who drank alcohol excessively or had signs of alcohol dependency when first interviewed continued to do so years later.
"Men who are engaging in risky alcohol use are not transitioning out of that, over at least the short term," Dr Quinn said.
"They're just persisting with these risky alcohol use behaviours and consumption patterns."
Australia needs to address the culture of harmful alcohol use among Australian males, and encourage drinking at more moderate levels, he added.
Better regulation of alcohol advertising would be one way to address the problem, Dr Quinn suggested.
Other findings include that men residing in outer regional areas are significantly more likely to engage in riskier alcohol use than those living in major cities.
As well, a fifth of Australian boys aged 10 to 14 had consumed alcohol.
The research team is currently interviewing the study cohort a third time, with future reports set to record the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on male drinking patterns.
"Watch this space," Dr Quinn said.
Australian Associated Press
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