Health Effects of Alcohol on Young People

Risky behaviours can occur when teenagers drink alcohol. Risky behaviour can have both short-term and long-term impacts, which is why it is important to change the community attitudes surrounding alcohol, and stop underage drinking from being the norm. 

When young people drink alcohol, the way they drink, the culture that supports their drinking and how much they drink, increases the likelihood of them experiencing alcohol-related harm.

This is why for under 18’s, no alcohol is the safest choice.

The 2011 Australian School Student Alcohol and Drug Survey found that in the last week, 4.3% of students reported drinking more than four drinks on a single occasion (known as single-occasion risky drinking). This is a statistically significant decrease from 2008 where this figure was reported to 8.1%. [1]

1. Increase risk of accidental and violent injury:

  • The occurrence of risk-taking behaviours increases in adolescence and the possibility of injury increases even more when alcohol is also involved. [2]
  • Alcohol consumption in young adults is associated with physical injury, risky sexual behaviour, adverse behavioural patterns and academic failure. [2]
  • Adolescents are also more likely to get involved in a fight when they drink alcohol, compared with when they were sober. [3]

2. Mental health problems including depression:

  • Alcohol use increases the risk for a range of mental health and social problems in young adults. [4]
  • Young people with poor mental health are more likely to initiate alcohol use in adolescents, and report drinking frequently. They are also more likely to drink with the intent to get drunk. [5,6]
  • Alcohol use may contribute to poor mental health. [2]
  • Adolescents who use drinking as a method of coping are more likely to suffer from depression, and can bring on heavy drinking, which is itself predictive of suicidal behavior. [6]

[1] ACT Health. 2013. Substance use and other health-related behaviours among ACT secondary students: results of the 2011 ACT Secondary Students’ Alcohol and Drug Survey. Canberra: ACT

[2] National Health and Medical Research Council. (2009). Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol: Commonwealth of Australia. Available at

[3] Kodjo, C., Auigner, P. & Ryan, S. (2004) Prevalence of, and factors associated with, adolescent physical fighting while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Journal of Adolescent Health. 35:346.e311.

[4] Brown, S. & Tapert, S. (2004). Adolescence and the trajectory of alcohol use: basic to clinical studies. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.  1021:234–44.

[5] Weitzman, E. (2004). Poor mental health, depression, and associations with alcohol consumption, harm, and abuse in a national sample of young adults in college. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. 192:269–77.

[6] Windle, M. (2004). Suicidal behaviours and alcohol use among adolescents: a developmental psychopathology perspective. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. 28:29S–37S.