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UK has biggest drink problem amongst 13-year-olds

Education Editor,Richard Garner
Tuesday 01 September 2009 16:49 BST

Britain has the biggest drink problem amongst 13-year-olds in the western world, according to a major study on child wellbeing published tomorrow.

Twice as many 13-year-olds in the UK admit to being drunk on at least two occasions during the year compared to the international average.

The study, by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, also reveals that teenage girls in the UK have a bigger drink problem than boys when it comes to 15-year-olds.

The figures show 21 per cent of 13-year-old boys and 20 per cent of teenage girls admit to being drunk at least twice in a year. This compares with an international average of nine and seven per cent internationally.

When it comes to 15-year-olds the UK is still near the top of the table with 50 per cent of girls and 44 per cent of boys admitting drunkenness.

That puts the girls in second place behind Denmark (56 per cent) and the boys in third place behind denmark and Finland and compares with an international average of 29 per cent for girls and 33 per cent for boys. The United States, with its tougher drinking laws, was the soberest nation with just 11.9 per cent of 15-year-olds having a drink problem.

The findings emerge in the wake of a promise by Conservative party leader David Cameron to crack down on the binge-drinking in the UK.

He has said he would treble taxes on alcopops and strong lagers and cider and stop supermarket from making cut-price offers as a “loss leader” and ban late-night alcohol licences for takeaways and food stores.

The wide-ranging 187-page study, Doing Better for Children,, covers a range of social issues and also includes that children in the UK are less likely to find their way out of the poverty trap than other countries if their parents are poor.

It says that “intergenerational inequality”, i.e children being in the same income bracket as their parents, is highest in the United States but that Italy and Great Britain are also amongst the nations where offspring are least likely to climb up the earnings ladder.

It adds: “Educational changes have primarily benefited children of richer parents.”

It says the passing on of iinequalities from generation means “there is no chance of winning or losing the lottery of life”,.

“This distribution of life chances by fate of birth is considered unfair by many,” it adds.

Other key issues tackled by the report include a call for OECD nations to shift education investment away from advantaged to disadvantaged children.

“To take one example, methods could be explored that allocate the best quality teachers to the least disadvantaged children,” it says.

The call coincides with pledges from the Conservatives to introduce a “pupil premium” to give extra finance to schools taking on disadvantaged youngsters and the Liberal Democrats to drastically reduce class sizes in the most disadvantaged schools.

On teenage pregnancies, the UK has the fourth highest with 24.8 girls in every 1,000 falling pregnant. This compares with 66.8 per cent in Turkey and 49.8 per cent in the United States. The international average is 15.5 per cent

On bullying, though, the UK fares better than most countries in the OECD with fewer 11 and 13-year-olds reporting suffering from it than the international average.

The survey covered 30 countries.

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