Binge Drinking Among Youth in Québec: Portrait and Evolution from 2000 to 2012

Alcohol use and the many social and health issues associated with it are public health concerns. The impact of alcohol depends primarily on the total volume of alcohol consumed and the pattern of drinking, particularly drinking a large quantity on a single occasion (WHO, 2009).

This work has allowed us to develop a current profile of binge drinking among youth in Québec who drink alcohol and to examine the trends and changes over time in this consumption pattern from 2000 to 2012.

These initial results indicate that just under a third of young drinkers in Québec engaged in binge drinking in 2011-2012. This phenomenon affects males much more than females, regardless of age.

Although many young drinkers started to drink excessively at around the age of 18, this behaviour was already present in young males of 14-15 years and in young females of 16-17 years of age. However, it is young adults of 22-23 years of age who are most likely to binge drink. This behaviour drops off quickly in females after this age, but remains at a high level (between 49% and 55%) throughout the twenties among males.

The results also show that binge drinking has changed over the last decade. During the period studied, from 2000-2001 to 2011-2012, an overall increase of about 10% is observed, in both males and females. Young adults in their mid-twenties, ages 22-27, are those with the sharpest increase, while this behaviour has remained rather stable over time in youth aged 21 and under. Moreover, the age at which binge drinking reaches its highest level does not appear to have changed in the past 10 years, and is still situated in the early twenties.

In addition to the effect of age on binge drinking, the analyses also enabled us to observe a cohort effect resulting in a noticeable difference in the rate of binge drinking according to year of birth. Cohorts born in the 1980s demonstrated an increased risk of binge drinking and the risk seems to be lowest among the youngest cohorts, for those born between 1990 and 1995. Despite these observations, we must mention, however, that a short monitoring time of 12 years greatly limits the application of an age-period-cohort model.

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