To examine socioeconomic differences in adolescent alcohol use in Germany as well as their changes between 1994 and 2006.
Data were obtained from the “Health Behaviour in School-aged Children” study conducted in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany in 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2006. The analysis is based on 5.074 15-year-old students. Prevalence and trends were analysed for each category of family affluence and educational track separately using log-binominal regression models.
An increase in weekly alcohol use between 1994 and 2002 was followed by a strong decrease from 2002 to 2006. Family affluence only had a weak effect on weekly drinking with a tendency for lower-affluent students reporting less alcohol use. Educational track showed almost no relationship with weekly alcohol use. Trend analyses within the subgroups revealed that the overall trend in alcohol use was similar in all socioeconomic and educational groups.
Socioeconomic patterns in drinking behaviour are not yet developed in 15-year-old adolescents. Adolescence could therefore be an important time frame for tackling inequalities in alcohol use later in life.
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