Italian newspapers have reported two cases of young people, aged 14 and 15 years old, that required medical assistance after falling in an alcoholic coma. Unfortunately, these are not isolated cases. A recent report released by the Italian institute for statistics, ISTAT, painted a dire picture of the situation.
The majority of Italians consume alcohol during meals and on social occasions. Over eight and half million Italians drink on a daily basis. The numbers regarding young drinkers are particularly harrowing 16.1% of Italians aged over 11 years have a drinking problem. Among the youngs aged between 11 to 15, both males and (see linked article) females, 13.6% consume alcohol and some of those drink in excessive quantities.
Things aren't better among adults, in the over 65's 43.5% of men and 10.6% of women consume more alcohol than the daily recommended intake.
This increased in alcohol - not only wine, but beer, vodka, whisky etc. - is responsible for many problems such as social and health.
Italians drinking habits are changing especially among the younger generation. Excess drinking used to be a weekend problem, now binge drinking happens during the whole week. Italians meet right after school and work and indulge in the ritual of aperitivo. For many this means just light drinking but for some it's the beginning of an evening of heavy drinking. Alcohol consumption begins as early as 5pm during week days.
According to a (see linked article) news press released from ISS, the Italian Public Health Service to Ansa, "drinkers were more likely to be from the north of Italy, have a high-school or even university education, and no money worries", and added, "14.4% of hospital admissions for excessive alcohol consumption regarded under-14s and 25.4% regarded 15-to-35-year-olds". A portrait much different from the typical problem drinker. The ISS released a report that said one in three Italians aged 16-24 risks serious health problems because of the potentially dangerous way they drink.
Some consumer groups have called on the government to raise the legal drinking age from 16 to 18 following the alarming results of studies, but to many it's clear that this can't be a solution since there is already a massive violation of the legal drinking age law, and people as young as 13 already have ways of purchasing alcohol.
Italians have their first contact with alcohol at about 12 and a half, two years earlier the European average. This often happens within the family during celebrations. Within Europe both Anglosaxon and Scandinavian countries have been battling with the same issue for even longer than Italy and the numbers of young teenagers with a drinking problem are truly alarming all over the world.