Background: Alcohol use by young people is a public health concern in Australia because of the disproportionate harm they experience. Accordingly, governments have sought to protect young people, with school identified as an appropriate site for drug, including alcohol, prevention through education. School-based drug education programmes, however, have not been particularly effective, and even when individual programs report prevention benefits they can be criticised for being developed and evaluated by the same group.
Methods: This study involved secondary analysis of alcohol data from the 2011 and 2014 Australian Secondary Students Alcohol and Drug (ASSAD) surveys, to examine the relationship between the amount of alcohol education students reported receiving and their patterns of use and harm. Associations between the amount of alcohol education remembered and alcohol uptake, consumption, risky consumption and alcohol-related harm were measured using Logistic and Tobit regression techniques. As most alcohol education in Australia reflects harm minimisation aims, this research provides an independent, proxy assessment of the effect of harm minimisation education.
Results: In the 12- to 17-year-old student group, as a whole, there was a significant positive association between having tried alcohol and the level of alcohol education recalled. There were significant negative associations between the amount of alcohol consumed and the level of alcohol education recalled for drinkers and risky drinkers. There were no significant associations between alcohol-related harm and the level of alcohol education recalled for drinkers and risky drinkers.
Conclusion: Providing more harm minimisation alcohol education did not persuade students to abstain from alcohol, but rather the reverse. Providing more harm minimisation education was influential in reducing consumption by students, particularly those drinking at risky levels. This should be considered indirectly beneficial in terms of minimising harm. However, the alcohol education provided to Australian students has not directly influenced their alcohol-related harm.