Badder to the Bone: European or American Teens

These guys really (don’t) know how to party. Icelandic teens. Psshhh.

The results are in, and the survey says… Icelandic teenagers are dull.

Every four years, 36 countries across Europe participate in the European School Project on alcohol and other drugs (ESPAD), a survey designed to measure drug and alcohol use in 15 and 16-year-olds across each nation. Similarly, the University of Michigan conducts an annual review of 8th, 10th and 12th grade students on the same subjects called Monitoring the Future. Typically, it would be dangerous to compare such statistics, since the methodology and questions used could be wildly different. However, the European study is based off of Michigan’s study.

So let the comparisons begin.

Unsurprisingly, European teens smoke and drink a lot more than their U.S. counterparts. For one thing, the drinking age is much lower. But also, their cultures and families are just a lot more relaxed about the subject. It’s not uncommon for teenagers to share a glass of wine or pint of beer with their parents at dinner.

Here, you’d probably be sent to jail.

I’ve also always heard that the smoking rates in Europe were much higher as a whole, so it is little surprise to me that Euroteens smoke a lot more as well. What is surprising, however, is just how much more.

The European averages for both smoking and drinking are more than twice what the U.S. was measured at. When asked if they had smoked or drank in the past 30 days, European teens said yes 28 percent and 57 percent of the time, respectively. My comparison, just 12 percent of American teens had smoked and 27 percent hand drank.

Perhaps Americans lie. Perhaps we are dull. Perhaps we’re smarter.

Or perhaps we’re just too busy with the really illegal stuff.

Flipping the trend on its head, American teens were found to be much more likely than their European counterparts to in their lifetimes have used marijuana (18 percent versus 7 percent), hallucinogens like LSD (6 percent versus 2 percent), ecstasy (7 percent versus 3 percent), amphetamines (9 percent versus 3 percent), and any sort of illicit drug other than marijuana (16 percent versus 6 percent).

The main exception, for some reason, was Iceland. Not only did the small island nation report very low numbers for illicit drugs, they also were the only European country surveyed to come in below the United States for drinking and smoking rates. Up north, just 10 percent reported smoking and 17 percent reported drinking.

This really surprises me. I mean, I don’t know much about Iceland, but I don’t think they have a Disneyland on every corner. It’s chilly with a lot of snow, I believe. In short, it doesn’t seem like there’d be a lot of options for things to do, especially outside of the small cities.

So what the heck are all the Icelandic teens doing for fun up there? Apparently they also have the highest birth rate in Europe.


About bigkingken

A science writer dedicated to proving that the Big Ten - or the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, if you will - is more than athletics.
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