Can a teen’s clothing reveal if they drink?

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Teens are more likely to begin drinking alcohol if they own alcohol branded merchandise such as shirts, hats, and keychains, according to a recent study.

An Australian researcher, whose work was published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, analyzed 13 studies on the association between alcohol merchandise ownership and consumption, which included more than 26,000 kids and teens.

Some of the studies found up to 59 percent of kids and teens own alcohol branded merchandise. Additionally, four studies found kids who owned alcohol paraphernalia but were non-drinkers were more likely to begin consuming alcohol a year later.

The effects of drinking alcohol on teen development is a cause for concern, says Dr. Natalie Sgarlata, an Advocate Children’s Medical Group pediatrician at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill.

“Alcohol can have a negative impact on a person’s physical and emotional development as the brain continues to develop throughout adolescence,” says Dr. Sgarlata. “The frontal lobe is responsible for decision making, and it does not finish developing until 23-25 years of life. Alcohol use during the teen years can slow or disrupt the development of the frontal lobe. This can lead to a great impairment indecision making.”

Due to these adverse effects of drinking on adolescent development, the research urges the adoption of new advertising policies to limit kids’ and teens’ access to alcohol branded merchandise.

Additionally, one of the studies cited 71 percent of kids who owned the merchandise said they received it from their parents. Therefore, experts suggest there is also a need to educate parents and adults about the negative impact of alcohol branded merchandise on teen drinking behavior.