Risky drinking declining faster in girls than boys?

Last week, German Health Minister Daniel Bahr (FDP) and the Federal Centre for Health Education (BzgA) announced a country-wide decline in binge drinking in teenagers and provided an update on the “Alkohol? Kenn dein Limit” campaign.

In 2009, BZgA started a campaign called “Alkohol? Kenn dein Limit” (Alcohol? Know your limit), with financial support from an association of private health insurance companies (about 50 million Euros over three years). The campaign focuses on 16-20 year olds and aims to reduced  binge drinking and risky patterns of alcohol use by increasing awareness about the risks and dangers of alcohol misuse. The campaign includes billboards, TV and cinema ads, brochures, and Facebook.

A year before the campaign started, researchers found that 20% of teenagers (ages 12-17) said they drank five alcoholic drinks or more once a month or more. A recent survey in 2011 suggests that this figure has dropped to approximately 15%. Health Minister Daniel Bahr reports that alcohol is the most widely used substance in Germany; in 2010, approximately 26,000 teenagers between 16 and 20 had been treated in hospital for acute alcohol poisoning.

Interestingly, there appears to be sex differences in the overall decline in teenagers. The decline appears primarily related to changes in drinking practices of girls and in 12-15 year old boys. In 2008, 34% of girls reported drinking more than five drinks at a time once a month; in 2011, this decreased to 22%. There was little change in rates for 16-17 year old boys, who drink the most (almost half drink 5 or more drinks once a month or more).

In the age 18-25 group, more than 50% of young men reported drinking more than five drinks in one night during the previous month – twice that of young women.

Due to these reported sex differences in drinking practices, the next stages of the campaign (which is currently planned to continue for another year) will switch its strategy and use different messages, images and design to target girls versus boys. Check out the campaign website here to take a look. The website does include information/brochures for download on pregnancy and alcohol although this is not a focus in the campaign.

Germany’s 2012 National Drug Strategy includes goals related to reducing the frequency of binge drinking among children and adolescents and abstinence from alcohol during pregnancy. Learn more here.

For more coverage of the campaign, see: