PRESS RELEASE ISSUED BY THE MINISTRY FOR THE FAMILY AND SOCIAL SOLIDARITY: Speech given by Minister Michael Farrugia during the launch of the National ESPAD Report

Good Afternoon,

It is very encouraging for me as a Minister for Family and Social Solidarity therefore responsible for the welfare services in Malta to see this year’s ESPAD results. As these results show that the consumption of alcohol, illicit drugs and smoking are on the decline. Educational campaigns in media and in schools are starting to give results.

But we don’t have to allude ourselves and think that we solved the addictions within our youths. While it is very positive to note that the use of Inhalants and the combination of Alcohol together with pills have drastically declined from 2011. The use of Cocaine, Ecstasy, Crack, LSD and Heroin are practically in the same percentage as 2011, the use of Cannabis has increased from 10% in 2011 to almost 15% in 2015. Therefore we still have a number of young people, practically children, who are addicted to hard drugs. One magistrate after another has been inciting the government for more than 20 years to do something about this problem.

A few weeks ago we reached an agreement with Caritas Malta to open the first rehabilitation facility for youths under 18 years in Malta. For this purpose, next week, together with a delegation from Caritas Malta and other officials from my Ministry I’m going to be visiting similar services in Ireland.

In the coming weeks and months I like to see our National Agency be more proactive and look within to see if what we have been doing in the last 3 decades is still relevant for today. I like to see our Agency in collaboration with the department for family wellbeing and other departments and faculties of the University of Malta invest in research and innovative programmes, practices and standards. We need to give more importance to gambling and social media addictions. Going out to a restaurant and looking around, you see families that instead of conversing with each other all of them are fidgeting with their mobile. Social media has its positive aspects but we need to remember that as humans we need to interact with each other.

As a Minister I’m very concerned about the increase of road fatalities on our roads as a result of drunk driving.

As I said earlier when you compare data there are concerning trends, for instance, data from ESPAD shows how since 1999, the trend has been a downward decline in most patterns of alcohol use among young people aged 15 and 16. Lifetime use of alcohol declined from 36% to 20% in 2015. Alcohol use in the last 12 months declined from 51% in 1999 to 19 % in 2015, while alcohol use in the last 30 days declined from 30% to 11%. Heavy episodic drinking in the last month declined from 57% in 2007 to 47% in 2015. Lifetime drunkenness also registered a decline with 45% reported having been drunk in 2007 and 38% in 2015. Drunkenness in the last 30 days also declined from 19% in 2007 to 15% in 2015. Those reporting being drunk at 13 years or younger declined from 14% in 1999 to 8% in 2015.

While these reductions in the student population are very encouraging further efforts may be directed towards young people between the ages of 18 to 24.

In the latest General Population Survey (2014) just over three quarters (75.9%) of the respondents, equivalent to some 209,000 individuals indicated that they have consumed alcohol at least once in their lifetime; this corresponds to similar data which was presented in the 2001 General Population Surveys which had also reported lifetime use of 75.6%. Seven in every ten respondents (70.6% or 194,000) indicated that they have consumed alcohol in the last 12 months which shows a slight increase of 1.3% or some 4,000 over data reported in 2001 (69.3%). Almost three in every five respondents (58.8% or 162,000) reported to have drunk alcohol in the last 30 days. When compared to the figures registered in 2001 (56.2%) the percentage of persons having consumed alcohol in the last 30 days shows the greatest increase of 2.6% or some 7,000. Of the respondents who have drunk alcohol in the last month, 12% indicated that they do so daily or almost daily. This shows a decrease of 1.1% over 2001 which had reported such consumption at 13.1%. This means that 6.8% or some 19,000 of the total population of 274,820 consume alcohol on a daily or almost daily basis.

The results reported in this survey, may to some extent be compared with the findings registered in the past ESPAD Surveys in which substance use prevalence was measured every 4 years amongst 15-16 year old students within all secondary schools in Malta since 1995. Students, who participated in the 2007 and 2011 ESPAD surveys, would now be aged between 18-24years and would therefore fall into this age cohort of this General Population Study. When looking at this age cohort, this survey reported lifetime use of alcohol at 87.2% which shows a similar percentage compared to the 92% reported in 2007 and the 90% reported in 2011 ESPAD surveys. Use of alcohol in the last 12 months was reported by 85% of those aged between 18-24 years whilst similar percentages were reported in ESPAD in 2007 (87%) and 2011 (86%). When comparing the use of alcohol in the last 30 days, such consumption was reported to be 73% in the 2007 ESPAD and 75.9% in this survey.

When analysing the findings by the gender of the respondents, it can be concluded that respondents who are current consumers of alcohol are mainly males. In fact, results show that of the current alcohol consumers, 59% are males and 41% are females. Again, the figures presented here show similar trends which were reported in the 2001 survey which stood at 61% for male consumers while the remaining 39% were females. Moreover, it is also worthy of mention that the life time prevalence of alcohol consumption is the highest in the Northern and Southern Harbour regions but as far current use of alcohol is concerned this is evenly spread throughout the island as was the case for the 2001 estimates. It results that 17.2 is the mean age for first time consumption of alcohol among respondents. Here again, similar trends were reported in 2001 with the mean age reported that of 17.4 years. Almost 61% of the respondents (168,000) indicated that they drank alcohol for the first time when they were between 16 and 19 years of age.

Even, last year and last month consumption of alcohol is the highest among respondents aged between 18 and 24 years of age and this decreases with increasing age brackets. Last month consumption of alcohol amongst the 18 and 24 year old cohort stood at 76% (some 30,000 of the 40,000 age cohort) while that of 60 to 65 year olds stood at 51% (some 18,000 of the 36,00 that makes up this age cohort), meaning a difference of 25%. Moreover, it is pertinent to note that while seven in every ten 60 to 65 year old have ever drank alcohol, a high nine of every ten 18 to 24 year old indicated that they have consumed alcohol. Similar trends were also reported in 2001 with 90% of 18-24 year olds reporting having ever used alcohol whilst about 67.5% of 60 to 65 year olds had reported lifetime drinking. A high 77.5% of ever drinkers of alcohol are also current drinkers, an increase of 2.5% over 2001(75%). Although the highest percentages of these are aged between 18 and 24 years of age, percentages do not decrease drastically among the older age brackets. Continuation of alcohol consumption is more present among males than females. While 85%, of the male respondents who have ever consumed alcohol, are current consumers, this is the case for 69% of the female respondents. Almost 70% of current drinkers drink alcohol once a week or less often. Results also show that males tend to be more frequent consumers of alcohol. In fact, while 37% of the males who have ever consumed alcohol, indicated that they drink alcohol daily, almost daily or several times a week, the same response was given by a lower percentage of the female (19%) ever consumers of alcohol.

The per capita alcohol consumption for 2010 for Malta was estimated to be 7.9 litres of pure alcohol. The latest figures available that of 2014 did not changed much. In effect, whereas most countries in the South have seen a reduction in per capita consumption over the years, Malta’s consumption has remained the same and not contributed to the overall reduction seen in the southern countries especially that of Italy.

Hence, we need to amend our laws and policies to attempt to reduce per capita consumption with the aim of reducing the numbers that may in turn resort to the harmful use of alcohol and its consequences mainly road fatalities.

Source: Government of Malta