Part 5: Drinking behaviours among children
This section presents a range of information on drinking behaviours among children including drinking prevalence, consumption, age of first alcoholic drink, prevalence and frequency of drunkenness, and consequences of drinking. This information has been taken from two NHS Digital publications.
Information is provided from Smoking, Drinking and Drug use among Young People in England (SDD) which surveys pupils in secondary schools across England to provide national estimates and information on the smoking, drinking and drug use behaviours of young people aged 11 - 15.
The question used in SDD to establish whether a pupil had drunk alcohol changed in 2016 to improve the estimate of drinking prevalence. However the new estimate is not comparable with previous surveys. More information is available in the appendices of the SDD report.
Information is also summarised from What About YOUth? (WAY) which surveyed 15 year olds with questions about their health, diet, exercise, bullying, alcohol, drugs and smoking.
The SDD survey is completed at school in exam conditions without the involvement of parents or teachers, but WAY is completed at home and therefore could involve parents. This will affect comparability between the two surveys as children are less likely to admit to risky behaviours when completing surveys in the home environment.
Ever had an alcoholic drink1, by year
Between 2003 and 2014 there was a decline in the proportion of pupils who had ever drunk an alcoholic drink.
In 2016, 44% of pupils said they had ever drunk an alcoholic drink2. Data prior to 2016 is not comparable due to a change in the survey question.
Ever had an alcoholic drink, by sex and age
46% of girls and 43% of boys said they had ever had a drink3.
Whether a pupil had drunk alcohol was related to their age, increasing from 15% of 11 year olds to 73% of 15 year olds.
1) In 2016 the question used to establish whether a pupil had drunk alcohol changed making the results of the 2016 survey not comparable with previous years. See appendix A (page 5) of the source publication for further details.
2) This is an estimate and subject to a margin of error: the proportion in the population is likely to be somewhere between 41% and 47%.
3) Not a statistically significant difference.
Drinking in the last week
When pupils drink1
Pupils were most likely to drink at weekends.
Of pupils who had drunk in the last week, 68% drank on Saturday, 42% drank on Friday, and 28% drank on Sunday. On other days of the week, between 5% and 7% of pupils drank.
How much pupils drink (mean units)2, by age
Pupils who drank alcohol in the last week consumed an average (mean) of 9.6 units that week3.
Mean consumption was lowest among 11 to 13 year olds (6.9 units), and highest among 14 year olds (11.1 units).
1) Based only on pupils who said they had a drink in the last week (10% of all pupils)
2) Quantities of alcohol were converted into units of alcohol, using a standard method described in Appendix B6 (page 25) of the source publication.
3) This is an estimate and subject to a margin of error: the proportion in the population is likely to be somewhere between 8.7 and 10.5.
Prevalence of drunkenness
Pupils who were drunk in the last four weeks, by sex
9% of pupils said they had been drunk in the last four weeks, including 7% of pupils who had been drunk once or twice, and 2% more often.
Girls (11%) were more likely to have been drunk in the last four weeks than boys (7%).
Pupils who were drunk in the last four weeks, by age
The proportion of pupils who reported having been drunk in the last four weeks increased with age.
23% of 15 year olds reported having been drunk in the last four weeks.
Where pupils get alcohol
How obtained alcohol in the last four weeks1
Of pupils who obtained alcohol in the last four weeks, the most common sources were to be given it by parents or guardians (70%), given it by friends (54%), or to take it from home with permission (41%).
Where current drinkers usually buy alcohol
Current drinkers were most likely to buy it from friends or relatives (22%), someone else (16%), an off-licence (10%) or a shop or supermarket (8%).
61% of current drinkers said they never buy alcohol.
1) Based on pupils who obtained alcohol in the last four weeks. Pupils could give more than one answer.
Pupils’ attitudes towards drinking
Attitudes to drinking by people of pupils’ age, by year
Pupils’ attitudes towards someone of their age drinking or getting drunk have become less tolerant.
In 2016, 50% agreed that it was ok to try alcohol to see what it’s like, down from 67% in 2003.
25% said it was OK to drink alcohol once a week, down from 46% in 2003.
Getting drunk was seen as less acceptable than drinking.
In 2016, 19% said it was OK to try getting drunk to see what it was like, down from 31% in 2003.
Only 7% thought it was OK to get drunk once a week, down from 20% in 2003.
Alcohol consumption by other household members
When last drank alcohol, by number of people who drink alcohol that pupil lives with
Pupils who lived with people who drank alcohol were more likely to drink alcohol themselves.
Only 3% of pupils who lived with only non-drinkers had drunk alcohol in the last week, and 79% had never drunk alcohol.
Among pupils who lived with three or more people who drank, the proportion who had drunk alcohol in the last week rose to 21%, whilst the proportion who had never drunk fell to 31%.
Drinking prevalence for 15 year olds
Drinking prevalence by LA
Barnsley District (77.6%), Devon (76.9%) and Cornwall (76.6%) had the highest prevalence of 15 year olds who have ever drunk alcohol.
The Borough of Tower Hamlets (14.6%) had the lowest.
Drunkenness by LA
Brighton and Hove (27.0%), North Tyneside (24.6%) and Richmond upon Thames (24.5%) had the highest prevalence of drunkenness in the last 4 weeks.
Tower Hamlets (2.6%) and Newham (3.1%) had the lowest.