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Alcohol, drugs, sex and violence: health risks and consequences in young British holidaymakers to the Balearics

Hugues, K., Bellis, M.A., Whelan, G., Calafat, A., Juan, M. & Blay, N.
(2009) Adicciones,  21(4), 265-278.

Background: Substance use, risky sexual behaviour and violence are among the key youth health issues today. Whilst they are the focus of much prevention work in the UK, relatively little information is available to inform prevention in international holiday resorts, where young people can take the greatest risks with their health.

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional survey of 1033 British holidaymakers aged 16-35 in Ibiza and Majorca airports (Spain). Surveys covered frequency of alcohol and drug use at home and abroad, and drunkenness, sexual activity and experience of a range of negative experiences on holiday. Results: Illicit drug use was more common in Ibiza. Over half (53.9%) of visitors to Ibiza reported using at least one drug on holiday (compared with 13.9% in Majorca) and over a third reported using more than one drug. However visitors to Majorca reported more frequent drunkenness and more negative outcomes (arguments, fighting, unintentional injury, illness and requiring medical attention). In both locations, frequency of substance use increased on holiday. A quarter of those travelling without a partner reported having had sex during their holiday, and of these a third did not consistently use condoms. Frequent drunkenness was associated with fighting, unintentional injury and sex with a new partner. Illicit drug use, particularly polydrug use, was associated with fighting and unprotected sex. Conclusions: Young holidaymakers face significant health risks on holiday. Understanding which resorts are associated with which types of health risk behaviour is critical in targeting health promotion and harm reduction measures

Key words: alcohol, recreational drugs, violence, risk behaviour, travel, nightlife.