Depression levels among sixth-year boys increases “substantially” the more often they get drunk, rising to “severe” levels for those who binge drink weekly.
Research among Leaving Certificate male students found that more than eight out of 10 had been drunk during the previous year and that almost half of these reported getting very drunk at least once a month.
A study conducted by Robert Kerr and published in the Irish Journal of Applied Social Studies said the findings were equivalent to the average student surveyed getting drunk 19 times a year.
The research was carried out among 169 pupils attending three secondary schools in medium-sized towns in Ireland. The majority were aged 17 or 18.
The study found:
* 70% started drinking by the age of 15 — and 29% began by age 13.
* 75% of those who drank within the previous year consumed alcohol at least once a month and 36% drank at least once a week.
* Almost 50% of drinkers — and none of the non-drinkers — were involved in at least one form of antisocial behaviour, such as heated arguments, physical fights and missing school.
Around half of those who got drunk said they felt “more discouraged”, “less patient” and suffered “poor concentration” afterwards. Four out of 10 said they were “unhappy”, slept worse and three out of 10 said they were “more stressed”.
The research found “a strong and significant correlation between mood and frequency of getting very drunk”.
It said: “[There was] a steady increase in depressive symptoms from mild depression of the non-drinkers to the severe depression of those who were drunk most frequently.”
It said that in a small number of cases, participants asked for help in dealing with sexual or other problems that had developed as a result of their drinking and in one case the pupil identified himself and gave his email.
However, when the school principals were informed, each of them indicated “they did not feel able to raise issues of this type” and they chose to ignore the pupils’ requests.
The report said the participants described getting drunk in positive terms, but said some pupils hadn’t realised how much they were drinking.
The report called for “personal support of pupils in schools”, which could include access to an independent, confidential person as opposed to staff, such as a school counsellor.
Concluding, the study said those surveyed drink alcohol “frequently and heavily, often becoming drunk and that, on average, they showed moderate levels of depression”.
It said many participants started drinking at an early age and “a large majority greatly enjoyed drinking”.
It added: “The overall level of depression among the participants rose substantially with increased frequency of getting drunk, up to severe level for those who binge drank weekly.”
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