A new study in New Zealand has revealed that up to a quarter of Kiwis aged 21 to 30 have a subclinical alcohol problem, which affects their daily life to some extent.
The Christchurch Health and Development Study, which was carried out by researchers at the University of Otago, also showed that more than 5% of this age group met the clinical criteria for alcohol addiction.
Joe Boden, associate professor at the university and one of the researchers involved in the study, said that much attention has been paid to the effects of problematic youth drinking, but little on those aged in their twenties.
This study, which was funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand and published in the Drug and Alcohol Dependence journal, found that this age group was still very much at risk, despite perceptions their drinking may be tapering off.
Among the study’s findings were revelations that those with clinical alcohol addictions are almost nine times more likely than those with no alcohol problems to inflict physical violence and three times more likely to commit a property crime such as burglary, car theft or vandalism.
It also found that this segment was almost 11 times more likely to have 10 or more sexual partners, twice as likely to have a sexually transmitted infection, and almost seven times more likely to contemplate suicide.
The researchers claimed the study for the first time quantified how much damage alcohol abuse has been inflicting on Kiwi twentysomethings, and said they had accounted for factors such as family background or previous substance abuse issues in their research.
Of those with a subclinical problem with alcohol—where drinking has had some negative effect on their daily life, but who are not diagnosed as addicts—the study said they were three times more likely to commit a violent crime and twice as likely to commit property crime.
They are also twice as likely to commit family violence, three times more likely to contemplate suicide, and almost twice as likely to have been the victim of a violent crime when compared to those who did not have an alcohol problem.
“It seems that young people don’t need to misuse alcohol for a long time before they experience some serious negative outcomes, and often multiple serious outcomes,’’ said Boden.
“There could be great benefits to society in addressing alcohol misuse in those aged in their twenties.”
Boden pointed out that becoming a parent has the biggest effect on minimising drinking, but many adults are now having children later and experiencing an “extended adolescence”.
“This may have some impact on the reasonably high number of people in their twenties with drinking problems,” he added.