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Play it safe in schoolies week

AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, today cautioned young people to play it safe as they set off for traditional Schoolies Week celebrations around the country to mark the end of a tough school year and, for many, the end of their high school days. The Schoolies Week season commences this weekend in Queensland, with other States to follow in coming weeks.

18 Nov 2011

AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, today cautioned young people to play it safe as they set off for traditional Schoolies Week celebrations around the country to mark the end of a tough school year and, for many, the end of their high school days.

The Schoolies Week season commences this weekend in Queensland, with other States to follow in coming weeks.

Dr Hambleton said that Schoolies Week is a great way to celebrate an important transition time in life but young people need to take extra care with alcohol, sexual activity, and privacy so that they do not end up in hospital emergency departments or in unwanted situations that could change the course of their young lives or the lives of others.

“Schoolies Week can be a lot of fun but it is also a time of high health risk for young people,” Dr Hambleton said.

“Good times can suddenly turn bad through unacceptable or dangerous behaviour as a result of excessive alcohol consumption or unsafe sexual activity.  Young people enjoy the social aspects of drinking but they should not put themselves, their friends, or others at risk of alcohol-related harms.

“They must remain aware to prevent the risks of alcohol and binge drinking and the embarrassment, injury or violence that can result from excessive consumption.

“The students should not just look after themselves, they should also look out for their mates.  If they're drinking too much and acting inappropriately, let them know.  If they're getting into difficulty, help them out or find someone who can.

“They must do all that is possible to protect their privacy, especially when affected by alcohol.  Embarrassing and damaging stories and images can be instantly circulated via smart phones, Twitter, and other social media.  These images can have far-reaching effects.

“It is also important that the businesses and people who sell or provide the alcohol do so responsibly because the consequences for them are serious if things go wrong.

“Everybody should be alert to the possibility of their drink being ‘spiked’ with drugs, or people increasing the amount of alcohol in their drinks by doubling or tripling the shots.”

More than half of all serious alcohol-related road injuries occur among 15-24 year olds, and alcohol is associated with about one-third of self-inflicted injuries and suicides.

Thirteen per cent of deaths among 14-17 year olds are due to alcohol-related harms, including road injury, suicide and violent assault, with a further 60 teenagers hospitalised each week.

In 2010, 22.4 per cent of recent drinkers aged 14 years or older put themselves or others at risk of harm while under the influence of alcohol in the previous 12 months.

According to the 2010 National Drug Strategy, swimming while under the influence of alcohol significantly increased in 2010 (from 6.1 per cent in 2007 up to 7.4 per cent).

The AMA has a brochure, Alcohol and Your Health: Make Informed Choices, which contains information about the short term and long term health impacts of excessive drinking.  It is available at http://ama.com.au/youthhealth/alcohol

Dr Hambleton said that students should be equally careful and cautious about their sexual health.

“Schoolies Week is a time when young people can be pressured to have sex, and alcohol is often involved,” Dr Hambleton said.

“These kids have just finished school and want to have fun, but this doesn’t mean they should be pressured into having sex.

“Parents and peers should remind them that it is okay to take time to make important decisions about sexual relationships.  Hasty decisions in the heat of the moment can lead to problems like sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancies.”

Young people thinking about having sex should:

  • Talk to their partner openly and honestly about safe sex;
  • Always make sure to use condoms (male or female);
  • Stay in control and make sure both people feel comfortable enough to initiate and terminate sexual activity at any time;
  • Know the facts about sexual health to make informed choices and decisions; and
  • Know that it’s okay to say ‘NO’.

Background

  • According to research undertaken by the University of Wollongong, most school leavers expect to drink heavily and engage in sexual activity.  When questioned prior to Schoolies Week, most of the group expected to drink 5-10 drinks at a time and 'hook up'.  About half the boys expected to have sex with multiple partners or someone they didn't know very well (compared to less than one fifth of girls).  When questioned after Schoolies Week, it was found that expectations generally matched reality.  Importantly, seven in 10 (of the 500 school leavers surveyed) rated their Schoolies Week experience as negative;
  • Young drinkers are at increased risk of drinking to a point where there is a loss of memory - in the previous month (to survey), 37.5 per cent of 12-17 year olds and 36.5 per cent of 18-19 year olds alcohol drinkers reported loss of memory (2010 National Drug Strategy);
  • The rate of chlamydia notifications more than tripled over the last decade to over 62,000 in 2009;
  • 44 per cent of males and 62 per cent of females in year 12 in 2008 had had sexual intercourse.  There was a 15 per cent increase in Year 12 females in 2008 who had had sex compared to Year 12 females in 2002;
  • 46 per cent of females in Year 12 in 2008 had had sex without a condom (11 per cent increase since 2002);
  • 40 per cent of females in Year 12 in 2008 had had unwanted sex, (an increase of 13 per cent since 2002), and 20 per cent of these because they were too drunk;
  • 38 per cent of Year 12 males in 2008 had three or more partners in the previous year (an increase of 23 per cent since 2002), and
  • 27 per cent of Year 12 females in 2008 had more than three partners in the previous year (an increase of 14 per cent since 2002). (Source: National Survey of Australian Secondary School Students, HIV/AIDS and Sexual Health, 2008 compared to 2002).


18 November 2011

CONTACT:         John Flannery                       02 6270 5477 / 0419 494 761

                        Kirsty Waterford                  02 6270 5464 / 0427 209 753

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Published: 18 Nov 2011