Alcohol and sport: “drinking culture” affects youth health

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Building the beer tower at Lord's during England vs Sri Lanka.
Photo: Wendie Norris

We went to Lord’s cricket ground to see England play Sri Lanka recently [14/6/14]. In our Lower Compton stand, the cricket was incidental to the main sport of drinking & talking. When did cricket at Lord’s get like this? Apparently at least since 2011 according to The Guardian’s Barney Ronay:  Sozzled – how English cricket got lost in drink

Our enjoyment was marred by the constant hubbub and noise: you could not hear bat on ball.

A group of young men in front of us, with one prime instigator (who somehow never got caught), in great good humour started a “feed the snake”… plastic beer cups were collected into one stack or beer tower and passed through the stand to be added to, while particpants shouted “feed the snake”. Great cheers would start up from the crowded stand – nothing to do with what was happening on the pitch – but because of these precarious beer towers.  For me, it was amusing only the once: repetitions were distracting and required constant security intervention.

What hit me from the beer towers was how many beers our stand had clearly been through between 11am and 2pm. Aided no doubt by the cardboard drinks holders enabling people to carry at least four pints in one hand. And not just beer… 4 lads behind us went through 3 bottles of champagne in the afternoon’s play.

Who was in the stand? All ages, but our stand was particularly full of young people (mostly lads) in their mid-twenties, good humouredly drinking themselves silly but not aggressive. Just silly enough to lose a sense of proportion and consideration for others in the stand.

Most of the drink on the day was bought at the venue, and there was plenty of advertising sponsorship linked to alcohol. The UK government’s minimum pricing for different drinks (April 6, 2014) to stop extreme discounting of alcohol in England and Wales, wouldn’t have helped at Lords.

Back at work I decided to investigate the health facts behind the “drinking culture” amongst young people and in particular young sports fans.

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Angry and sad at Xmas: victims of adolescent bullying

FACES_Tiny_with_creditThere have been far too many stories recently of desperate teenagers committing suicide, and an unknown number of families today will be reeling from the discovery that their teenager is seriously self-harming because of bullying. Mobile phones and social networking sites have exacerbated an age-old problem so that there is nowhere to hide. 

Poison-pen letter writers are no longer adults in detective stories. They have been brought right up-to-date, and are alive and well reincarnated in teenagers. Incapable of empathy with their victim, remote bullying via texts, phones, videoclips and the internet makes it so easy & so much more devastating, reaching  beyond a school, covering entire towns & counties,  and as its not face-to-face, even less likely for the teenage bully to empathise.

There also seems to be more serious consequences to bullying these days:  beyond loss of confidence, our society is experiencing a rise in self-harming and suicide amongst teenagers. Is it because teenagers these days are so interested in relationships & celebrity, following soaps avidly, that they are posting the minutiae of their lives online for all to see as if they were part of a soap opera?

What is the research evidence available to understand what’s going on?

I took a look and discovered to my horror that being bullied in primary schools can set you up to self-harm when you are a teenager in your next school.  Being Bullied During Childhood and the Prospective Pathways to Self-Harm in Late Adolescence ,  was co-authored at Warwick University, UK. Their press release reveals that 16.5% of 16-17 year olds had self-harmed in the previous year, and 26.9% of these did so because they felt as though they ‘wanted to die’. Those who were subjected to chronic bullying over a number of years at primary school were nearly five times more likely to self-harm six to seven years later in adolescence.[see press

Furthermore, other research shows being both the bully and the bully-victim is linked to an increased risk of suicide or mental illness. I also discovered that self-harming is a very difficult habit to break.

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