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New figures revealed by NHS Digital showed 51% of young people aged 11 to 15 who had recently2 drunk alcohol, smoked cigarettes and taken drugs experienced low levels of happiness3. This is compared to 36% who had recently done just one of these things, and 22% who hadn’t recently smoked, drank or taken drugs.
According to the Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use among Young People 2018 report, 2% of pupils had recently smoked, drunk alcohol and taken drugs, 11% had done only one of these recent behaviours, with 84% having done none of these things.
The number of pupils that reported having ever smoked dropped from 19% in 2016, to 16% in this survey. This is the lowest rate recorded in the survey and marks a continuing decline from 49% in 1996.
In 2018,17% of pupils said that they usually drank alcohol at least once a month with 6% saying they drank at least once a week.
Drinking alcohol varies with age, with 38% of 15-year-olds saying they usually drank once a month, compared to 2% of 11-year-olds. While 14% of 15-year-olds said they usually drink every week, just 1% of 11-year-olds said the same.
Other statistics included in the report revealed:
- Pupils from more affluent families were more likely to have drunk alcohol in the last week:13% of pupils from the most affluent families compared to 7% from the least affluent families4.
- Just under half (47%) of 15-year-olds thought it was okay to drink alcohol once a week, while 19% thought it was okay to get drunk once a week.
- The proportion of current smokers (5% of all pupils were current smokers), who said they managed to buy cigarettes from shops fell from 46% in 2014 to 23% in 20185.
- A quarter of pupils (25%) reported they had ever used e-cigarettes, the same as in 2016. Regular e-cigarette use was 6% in 2018.
- 24% admitted to having ever taken drugs, the same as the previous survey in 2016. This ranged from 38% of all 15-year-olds to 9% of 11-year-olds. Data prior to 2016 is not comparable due to a change in methodology.
- In the past year 8% of pupils had taken cannabis, while 3% admitted to taking a Class A drug and 1% said they had taken a new psychoactive substance (previously known as legal highs).
- 13% of children thought it was okay to try cannabis to see what it was like. This increased to 30% among 15-year olds.
Read the full report
Notes to editors
- ‘Smoking, drinking and drug use among young people in England’ is a biennial survey of secondary school pupils. The survey is conducted by Ipsos Mori, under exam conditions. In 2018, 13,664 year 7 to 11 pupils were surveyed from 193 schools across England, primarily about their experience of smoking, drinking and drug use.
- Recently means smoked in the last week, drank alcohol in the last week, or took drugs in the last month.
- Pupils were asked how happy they felt on the day prior to taking the survey.
- See Appendix C of the report for the family affluence scoring methodology.
- The display of tobacco products in all shops has been prohibited since 2015.
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