Wealthy teens are drunk teens
Young teens from higher income families may be more likely to use alcohol.
UK researchers found that among 5,837 13-year-olds, those from the poorest families were the least likely to have tried liquor.

When the researchers divided the teens into five income groups, those in the lowest bracket were 22% less likely than the middle bracket to have had a drink in the past 6 months. They were similarly less likely to admit to binge-drinking.

Whatever the reasons for the findings, the researchers say they reinforce the fact that all parents should be aware of the problem of early drinking - but maybe particularly so in higher income families.

"More advantaged families tend to have healthier behaviour" in general, lead author Roberto Melotti, of the University of Bristol, said in an e-mail. "Our results indicate an example where this is not the case."

At age 13, many kids who drink may get the alcohol from their own house, Melotti noted. So parents may want to make sure any alcohol is locked away, he said.

The findings are based on interviews with 13-year-olds taking part in a larger, long-term health study. Overall, one-quarter said they had ever had alcohol without permission, while one-fifth said they had ever "binged" - consumed three or more drinks in a day.

Overall, kids in the lowest income groups were less likely to report drinking - even when the researchers factored in parents' occupations and education levels.

Teens who smoke

The findings were different when it came to smoking, however. The 13-year-olds from lower income families were slightly more likely to admit to ever trying smoking - a pattern that is in line with results of past studies, according to the researchers.

Overall, 16% of boys and 22% of girls in the UK study admitted to ever smoking.

In a 2009 survey on risky behaviours by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10% of American high school students admitted to having tried smoking a cigarette before age 13. Among 8th graders, between 30 and 60% said they had had "more than a few sips" of alcohol.

Figuring out which children are most likely to drink and smoke at a very early age is important, according to Melotti, because the earlier the start, the greater the risk of lasting problems.

"Drinking at an early age," he said, "has been related to a series of adverse outcomes, including the risk of developing alcohol-use disorders in later life."

Do you believe a teen drinking has anything to do with how wealthy their families are?

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