The percentage of young people who’ve tried alcohol has decreased significantly. However, the focus on healthier lifestyles has led to an increase in mental disorders, according to researchers at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.
In a new report, they looked at the use of drugs and tobacco among Norwegians 15 and 16 year olds in the past two decades. The findings show clearly that today’s youth in that age group drink and smoke less than their peers did in 1999.
The percentage of young people who said they’d drunk alcohol over the past 12 months had decreased from 78% in 1999, to 49% in 2015. The percentage of those who’d consumed alcohol over the past 30 days had been reduced from 55% to 24% over the same period of time.
‘That young people are increasingly exposed to alcohol abuse is important, because they’re not as mentally mature, and able to deal with substance abuse, so are vulnerable to the consequences of drinking. That young people now drink less, and take less risks than previously, is therefore positive’, said researcher, Elin Bye, the author of the report.
The report is part of a major European survey initiated by the European School Examination ESPAD. Norwegian youth are very well positioned in the European context, and consistently low on drug use.
Differences between girls and boys
The arrows point equally strongly downward when young people are asked about smoking cigarettes. 70% responded that they’d tried smoking in 1999, while the figure was only 29% in 2015.
‘The health trend is particularly important considering the decline in smoking, because smoking cigarettes has a proven negative effects on health,’ said Bye.
Cannabis use has also decreased from 12% in 1999, to 6.5% in 2015. Boys respond more highly than girls to alcohol, smoking,and cannabis, but the differences were marginal. The report showed that regarding smoking, it was a matter of boys smoking far more than girls.
The researchers believes the trend is partly due to the fact that youth are now staying at home more, having replaced late evenings on street corners with long evenings spent on social media.
Today’s parents also have better control over who the children are with, and where they are, according to Bye.
The researcher refered to several studies that indicate that today’s youth are more concerned with their bodies, health, exercise, and school work. Young people are increasingly switching drinking pressure with more positive health ideals.
Bye nevertheless believes that a paradox may be inherent in the health trend, namely, that ‘generational achievement’ may have become ‘generational depression’.
‘What has been pointed out in other surveys is that negative behaviour, alcohol abuse and crime, have reduced among young people, yet that psychological pressures have increased in tandem.
Norwegian youth suffer from mental disorders to a greater degree than they did previously. This is partly due to greater pressures in terms of education, plans for the future, their appearance, physical training, and other expectations they place on themselves’, said Bye.
© NTB Scanpix / Norway Today