LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Almost half of Britain’s youngsters are drinking in their pre-teen years, fuelling violence and anti-social behavior, a government-backed study said on Wednesday.
Drinking was damaging their health and inflating crime figures, it found.
The Home Office-backed Crime Concern study, “Binge drinking: young people’s attitudes and behavior” conducted one-on-one interviews with 1,250 people aged between 10 and 19.
It found that about half of respondents said they had been involved in fighting, violence and aggression as a result of underage drinking.
The crime prevention charity’s study, commissioned by one of its umbrella groups Positive Futures, also revealed that people were drinking at increasingly younger ages, which it concluded had “serious consequences to health and crime”.
Almost half said they began drinking aged 13 or younger, almost a third said they drink to get drunk and almost a quarter had been in trouble with the law after drinking.
Despite laws banning alcohol being sold to minors, more than half said they bought drinks from their local corner shop, off license or supermarket with a third wanting underage sales to be better controlled.
The charity’s chief executive, Clare Checksfield, said in a statement that young people were putting their lives at risk by binge drinking.
“We need to tackle a wider drinking culture,” she said.
“Young people are taking risks with their health and with their future by getting involved in alcohol-related violence.”
Children’s Minister Beverley Hughes said in a statement that the government has been developing plans to deal with underage drinking, which will be revealed later in the year.
“Binge drinking is a concern which the government is already taking very seriously,” she said.
Recent alcohol-driven crimes have fuelled a wave of public anger.
Last week, three teenagers were convicted of murdering Gary Newlove, 47, who died in an attack outside his home in Cheshire after being set upon by drunken youths.
The murder led to the area’s police chief calling for the legal drinking age in Britain to be raised from 18 to 21 to stem anti-social and violent behavior.
Wednesday’s study came a day after figures from the Office of National Statistics revealed that larger glasses were helping to fuel a drink epidemic among adults as well.
Editing by Stephen Addison and Paul Casciato