The European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD), is a report which collects and analyzes data on substance use and addiction amongst 15 to 16-year old school students. The data for the ESPAD study is collected every four years and the 2019 survey is the seventh edition of the report.
3,043 Maltese and Gozitan students between the ages of 15 to 16 years from all types of schools participated in the 2019 ESPAD survey. The survey showed the following results about adolescent alcohol use behaviors in Malta:
- 34% of students started alcohol use at 13 years of age or younger,
- 6% have been alcohol intoxicated at age 13 or younger,
- 73% reported consuming alcohol within the past 12 months,
- 48% reported consuming alcohol within the last 30 days, and
- 85% students perceived alcohol as being “fairly” or “very easy” to obtain. Beer was reported easiest to obtain by 75%, followed by 72% wine, 67% premixed drinks, 60% spirits, and 59% ciders.
Alcohol consumption among Maltese school students is higher than in other European countries as per ESPAD results.
While it is illegal to sell alcohol to those below 18 years in Malta, 19% of 15 to 16-year olds reported their last alcohol purchase was at a bar or pub.
Comparatively cigarettes were much harder to obtain than alcohol, according to the youth, with 57% believing it was “fairly” or “very easy” to obtain. Cigarette consumption is also reported to be lower than alcohol use in Malta. 22% of students have smoked cigarettes during their lifetime and 10% had smoked in the last 30 days. However, cigarette smoking still remains a problem for Malta as 7% of students had smoked their first cigarette and 2% had started to smoke on a daily basis before the age of 14.
The ESPAD findings show that alcohol remains the most used, easiest accessible and the most harmful drug in Malta.
Alcohol harm among youth in Malta
According to the World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe the total per capita alcohol consumption among 15 to 19-year olds in Malta in 2016 is 7.1% for boys and 2% for girls, both figures have increased between 2010 to 2016. In terms of binge alcohol use among adolescents, 37.3% of boys and 8.3% of girls engaged in this high-risk behavior.
The harm from early onset of alcohol use and high-risk patterns of consumption is apparent as 14.7% of adolescents die due to alcohol-related causes in Malta.
Malta’s alcohol policy system has serious gaps which should be improved to prevent alcohol harm among the country’s youth. Specifically in terms of:
- Limitations for alcohol outlet off-premise density, and on-premise hours and density to reduce the availability of alcohol to minors;
- Alcohol marketing ban on social media and sponsorship bans for youth events which will reduce adolescent exposure to alcohol which is known to increase consumption; and
- Improved implementation of the legal purchasing age for alcohol.
Independent Malta: “34% of students in Malta consumed alcohol at the age of 13 or younger – report“
Newsbook: “Students find it easier to obtain alcohol than cigarettes – Study“