An alcohol prevention program that was implemented in Estonia to try to tackle high rates of alcohol use amongst adolescents does not appear to make any significant difference to the young people’s alcohol use, according to a randomised controlled trial amongst 985 fifth-graders and their parents.
Alcohol use is very common among adolescents in Estonia – much higher than in most other European countries. Nearly one in two 15-year-olds have consumed alcohol, and 19% have been drunk by the age of 13. Starting to drink alcohol at an early age is related to health problems, injuries, early sexual behavior and delinquent behavior as well as harmful effects on brain development.
The parent-oriented program, called Effekt, was designed in Sweden in the 1990s, to try to delay and reduce adolescents’ alcohol use by maintaining parental restrictive attitudes towards adolescents’ alcohol use over time. The program has since been delivered in several European countries, with some promising results, and an adjusted version was initiated in Estonia in 2012. This new research indicates, however, that adolescents whose families took part in the programme did no better than those whose families did not take part, although the parents in the program developed more restrictive attitudes towards adolescents’ alcohol use.
The trial was undertaken with 985 fifth grade adolescents and 790 parents in sixty six schools. 34 schools received the program and 32 did not, enabling the Cambridge and University of East Anglia research team to compare results.
This trial shows that targeting parental attitudes via the Estonian version of Effekt does not delay or reduce adolescents’ alcohol use. Parent-oriented programs may be effective in preventing and reducing adolescents’ alcohol use, but this may depend on various additional factors, such as adolescents’ age, parents’ characteristics and the intensity of the program.
We need to understand whether combining parent and adolescent programs, or starting the program earlier, for example, would make a big difference. Ensuring high participation rates is another crucial part of universal prevention programs like this’.
– Mariliis Tael-Öeren, lead researcher and PhD student, Behavioural Science Group
This study was funded by the Estonian National Institute for Health Development and Archimedes Foundation, which funds Mariliis Tael-Öeren’s doctoral studies at the Behavioural Science Group, Primary Care Unit, University of Cambridge.
Read the research
Mariliis Tael-Öeren, Felix Naughton, Stephen Sutton. ‘A parent-oriented alcohol prevention program “Effekt” had no impact on adolescents’ alcohol use: Findings from a cluster-randomized controlled trial in Estonia’ in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, vol 194
Media queries: Lucy Lloyd
Image credit: National Institute for Health Development in Estonia