(PRWEB) December 12, 2009
Half of Australian adults and 63 per cent of Australians on a higher income believe teenagers aged from 15 to 17 year old should be allowed to consume alcohol under parental supervision at home, according to the latest MBF Healthwatch survey.
Bupa Australia* Chief Medical Officer, Dr Christine Bennett, said these statistics were both surprising and of concern given alcohol consumption can have long-term health implications for young adult brains that are not yet fully developed.
“Our survey suggests many Australians believe it’s acceptable to buy alcohol for teenagers and allow them to drink under parental supervision at home,” Dr Bennett said.
“Some parents may think this is harmless to a young person’s health; some may see this approach as a way to teach their teenage children about socially responsible drinking. But we want parents to understand that early exposure to alcohol may actually be doing their teenager’s health, damage.
“Evidence suggests that the younger teenagers are when alcohol is introduced, the greater the risk of long-term alcohol related health problems.
“Too much alcohol impairs young people’s judgement which can lead to violence, injury and build a pattern of use that leads to lifetime dependence.
“Binge drinking in young people is on the rise and it’s shocking to think that one teenager a week dies of alcohol abuse.
“We teach children about the harmful health effects of smoking, unsafe sex and taking illicit drugs, but we also need to teach them about the damage that alcohol can do,” she said.
The MBF Healthwatch survey results also showed that people’s acceptance of supervised underage drinking was closely linked to their incomes:
- 63 per cent of people earning more than $100,000 supported supervised alcohol consumption, followed by
- 53 per cent of people earning between $70,001 to $100,000
- 48 per cent of people earning $40,001 to $70,000.
Professor Ian Hickie, Executive Director of the Brain and Mind Research Institute, reaffirmed Dr Bennett’s concerns.
“It’s concerning that one in two adults believes it’s acceptable to allow underage drinking, especially in light of the latest alcohol guidelines released by the National Health and Medical Research Council, which are based on current international medical evidence,” Hickie said.
“These statistics highlight the gap between best medical evidence and parental actions, while also challenging the belief parents are well placed to assist their children to avoid drinking alcohol during the critical years of brain development.
“Parents need to understand that early alcohol use can disturb a wide range of key brain functions, with the long-term ramifications potentially causing permanent disruption to some of the brain’s most important integrative functions.”
Adults in Western Australia were the biggest supporters of underage drinking, with 59 per cent stating it was acceptable under parental supervision. In contrast, only 46 per cent of adults residing in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory approved of underage drinking.
Allowing underaged teenagers to drink alcohol was also supported by 52 per cent of adults living in Tasmania, 51 per cent in Queensland and Victoria, and 49 per cent in South Australia and the Northern Territory.
“Given that social drinking is a common part of the Australian culture, our challenge is to help our young people learn how to enjoy alcohol in a socially responsible way and protect them from harm now and in the long-term,” Dr Bennett said.
“That will mean educating young people about the health risks of underage drinking and, as parents and a community, being good role models.”
MBF Health Insurance has been looking after Australians for more than 60 years. As a leading private health insurance, our primary aim is to help all Australians live longer, healthier and happier lives.
MBF proudly provides health cover to around 1.7 million Australians – giving them the confidence to better manage their healthcare needs. We have a broad range of quality health insurance products and an extensive national member centre network. Recently, we were independently assessed by CANNEX and named the national winner of the Outstanding Value Private Health Insurance Award.
In addition to private health insurance, MBF offers life and travel insurance, as well as financial planning, superannuation and managed investment products through ClearView Retirement Solutions.
About Bupa Australia
Bupa Australia is a leading healthcare provider. With a significant presence in every Australian state and territory, the company operates under the trusted and respected brands, HBA, MBF, Mutual Community and Clearview, proudly covering over three million Australians.
Bupa Australia is driven by the vision of “Taking care of the lives in our hands”. The company is focused on providing sustainable health insurance and financial services solutions that represent real value to customers, and on leading the industry in the promotion of preventive health and wellness.
Bupa Australia’s products and services include cover for hospital, medical, ancillary and ambulance services, as well as travel, life, car and home insurance, and retirement planning and lifestyle management services.
As part of the international Bupa Group, Bupa Australia draws on the strength and expertise of an international healthcare leader. The Bupa Group covers more than 10 million people in more 200 countries and provides other health and financial services to many more millions of customers around the globe.
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