Study links teen sport and drinking

Study links teen sport and drinking

The claim was made by Murdoch University researcher Kathryn Modecki who, with colleague Bonnie Barber, has studied the survey results of more than 1300 Year 8-11 students at 39 WA public and private schools in varying socio-economic urban and regional communities over a four-year period.

‘(Survey results) showed that students who spent more time in sporting activities in Year 8 was a predictor of an increased likelihood of a risky binge drinking pathway,’ Dr Modecki said.

‘Generally more kids that do sport were at risk of taking a binge drinking pathway, which is similar to US data.

‘Early pubertal timing in relation to students’ peers also showed they would get involved in risky behaviours. This included boys and girls.’

Non-sporting activities, like drama and music, were more likely to be protective factors against teenage binge drinking for the surveyed students.

Dr Modecki pointed out that sporting activities had other great aspects and the next step in the research was to tease out how structured activities helped reinforce positive behaviour in teenagers, particularly for youth at-risk for problem behaviour.

A large number of students were not binge drinking at all.

‘The bulk of students abstained from binge drinking altogether during the study and a further 11 per cent of students only participated in low levels of binge drinking across high school.

‘Around 17 per cent were heavy binge drinkers in Year 8 compared to their peers and their levels of drinking increasing over the period. A further 6 per cent were not heavy drinkers in Year 8, but rapidly increased throughout their high school years until they reported the highest rate of drinking by Year 11.’

She said a 2013 funding grant would let researchers look at peers in sport and the relationship coaches had with teenagers to see if it could be a buffer against the risks.

‘We want to get at the norms in sport and why kids who spend more hours doing sport are at an increase risk of binge drinking.’