Data for the UK underage population is presented below, with UK adult drinking data presented here.

 

UK consumption data for school-aged pupils, or underage drinkers.

This section reports statistics on UK consumption data for school-aged pupils, or underage drinkers.

If you are looking Local Authority (LA) level data, you may be interested in the What about YOUth 2014 (WAY 2014) survey.  This survey asked 15 year olds in schools across England about different health behaviours including alcohol consumption 1.  You can find Local Authority (LA) level data via Public Health England's data visualisation tool.

Trying alcohol

In 2014, around two-fifths of pupils (38%) aged 11-15 in England had drunk alcohol at least once. Boys and girls were equally likely to have done so. This continues the downward trend since 2003, when 61% of pupils had drunk alcohol, and is the lowest since the survey began in 1988.2

The proportion of pupils who have ever had an alcoholic drink increased with age from 8% of 11 year olds to 69% of 15 year olds.3

Drinking in the last week

In 2014, one in twelve (8%) pupils aged 11-15 in England had drunk alcohol in the last week, compared to one in four (25%) in 2003.  Two-thirds (63%) of those who drank in the last week had consumed alcohol only on one day in that week4.

On average, English pupils who said they drank alcohol in the last week consumed 5.5 units (median); equivalent to just over 2 pints of 4% beer. This was the same for both girls and boys. 22% of pupils who drank in the last week had consumed 15 or more units of alcohol5.

In 2014, almost half (49%) of pupils who had consumed alcohol in the last four weeks said that they had been drunk at least once during that time. Of those who said they had been drunk in the last four weeks, 71% of boys and 57% of girls said that they had done so deliberately6.

In 2013, there was a decline in the proportion of Scottish pupils drinking in the last week from 14% to 4% of 13 year olds and from 34% to 19% of 15 year olds. Under half (44%) of 13 year olds who had ever had an alcoholic drink had been drunk at least once, compared with over two thirds (70%) of 15 year olds7.

Attitudes

In 2014, about half (48%) of pupils aged 11-15 in England thought it was OK for someone of their age to try drinking alcohol, and about a quarter (26%) thought that it was OK to try smoking8. Pupils were much less likely to approve of drug use: 9% thought it was OK for someone to try cannabis 9.

Pupils in England were most likely to remember lessons on drug use (59%), and less likely to recall lessons on smoking (55%) or alcohol (53%)10.

In the period 2010-2013, there has been a reduction in the proportion of both 13 and 15 year olds in Scotland who thought it was okay for someone their age to try drinking alcohol to see what it is like (from 52% in 2010 to 42% in 2013 for 13 year olds; from 82% in 2010 to 77% in 2013 for 15 year olds). The proportion of pupils who thought it was okay for someone of their age to try getting drunk has also declined since 2010 (from 13% to 8% for 13 year olds; from 46% to 39% for 15 year olds)11.

Obtaining alcohol

In 2014, 28% of pupils aged 11-15 in England said that they had obtained alcohol in the last week. The most common ways of obtaining alcohol were to be given it by parents (17%), given it by friends (15%), to take it from home with permission (11%), or to ask someone else to buy it (9%)12.

In 2014, 40% of 11-15 year old English pupils who drank alcohol said they bought it. Of these, 55% bought it from friends or relatives, 29% from someone else, 29% from an off-licence, and 27% from a shop or supermarket13.

In Scotland, amongst pupils who had ever had an alcoholic drink, the proportion who reported successfully purchasing alcohol from a shop, supermarket or off-licence in the last four weeks has declined since 2010 (from 6% in 2010 to 3% in 2013 for 13 year olds; from 11% in 2010 to 7% in 2013 for 15 year olds)14.

Drinking contexts

In 2014, pupils aged 11-15 in England who drank alcohol were most likely to do so in their own home (56%) , someone else's home (43%), at parties with friends (46%), or somewhere outside (13%). Since 1996, there has been an increase in the proportions of pupils who usually drink at home or in other people's homes from just over half (52%) to nearly three quarters (74%). The proportion drinking at parties has also increased, whilst the proportion of pupils drinking outside has decreased15.

In 2014, pupils who drank were most likely to do so with their parents (56%), friends of both sexes (52%), brothers, sisters or other relatives (37%) or friends of the same sex (35%). This is a change from recent years where pupils were more likely to say they drank with friends of both sexes than with their parents.  Younger pupils were most likely to drink with family members, older pupils were most likely to drink with friends16.

In Scotland in 2013, the proportion of those pupils who had ever had an alcoholic drink and who reported drinking at home had increased in both age groups: from 52% of 13 year olds who had ever drunk alcohol in 2010 to 58% in 2013; from 42% of 15 year olds who had ever drunk alcohol in 2010 to 43% in 201317.

Influences

Pupils aged 11-15 in England are more likely to drink if they live with other people who drink alcohol. 86% of pupils who did not live with anyone who drank alcohol had never drunk alcohol themselves, compared with 40% of pupils who lived with three or more drinkers18.

There was a strong relationship between pupils’ drinking behaviour and their parents’ attitudes to their drinking. 77% of pupils who had never drunk alcohol said that their parents would not like them drinking. 84% of pupils who had drunk in the last week said that their parents did not mind them drinking as long as they didn't drink too much19.

Pupils were most likely to think that people of their age drink to look cool in front of their friends (79%), to be more sociable with friends (67%), because it gives them a rush (66%),  or because their friends pressure them into it (64%)20.

 

References

1 Health and Social Care Information Centre. (2015). Health and Wellbeing of 15 year olds in England: Findings from the What about YOUth? Survey 2014. [Online]. Available from http://www.hscic.gov.uk/catalogue/PUB19244 [Accessed 3 February 2016]

Fuller, E. (2015). Smoking, drinking and drug use among young people in England in 2014. [Online] Available from http://www.hscic.gov.uk/catalogue/PUB17879 [Accessed 12 August 2015]

3 ibid

4 ibid

5 ibid

ibid

7 Dodds, B., Grant, I., Bainbridge, R. et al (2014) Alcohol use among 13 and 15 year olds in Scotland 2013: part of the Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (SALSUS). [Online] Available from http://www.isdscotland.org/Health-Topics/Public-Health/Publications/2014-11-25/SALSUS_2013_Alcohol_Report.pdf [Accessed 27 November 2014].

8 Fuller, E (2015) op cit

9 Fuller, E (2015) op cit

10 Fuller, E (2015) op cit

11 Dodds et al (2014) op cit

12 Fuller, E. (2015). Smoking, drinking and drug use among young people in England in 2014. [Online] Available from http://www.hscic.gov.uk/catalogue/PUB17879 [Accessed 12 August 2015]

13 ibid

14 Dodds at al (2014) op cit

15 Fuller, E (2015) op cit

16 ibid

17 Dodds et al (2014) op cit

18 Fuller, E. (2015). Smoking, drinking and drug use among young people in England in 2014. [Online] Available from http://www.hscic.gov.uk/catalogue/PUB17879 [Accessed 12 August 2015]

19 Fuller, E. (2015). Smoking, drinking and drug use among young people in England in 2014. [Online] Available from http://www.hscic.gov.uk/catalogue/PUB17879 [Accessed 12 August 2015]

20 ibid