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Underage drinking hits historic low as trade initiatives deliver

Published:  18 December, 2017

The number of young people aged between 8 to 15 years old drinking alcohol is at a record low, a new survey by NHS Digital has revealed.

The results were taken from a survey of 12,051 pupils in 177 schools, which saw them complete questionnaires in the autumn term of 2016.

Overall the report also revealed that 44% pupils had ever drunk alcohol.

It also revealed that the proportion of young people reporting ever having had an alcoholic drink fell by 67% since 2003. In 2003, 45% of 8-15 year olds reported trying an alcoholic drink but by 2016, this had fallen to 15% of children.

In 2016, 38% of pupils said that they drank alcohol at least a few times a year.

This increased sharply by age, from 8% of 11 year olds to 68% of 15 year olds.

Pupils who drank alcohol were most likely to do so in their own home (62%), at parties with friends (43%), or at someone else’s home (41%).

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%).

Drinks watchdog The Portman Group welcomed the news calling it “encouraging”.

“Underage drinking has now hit a record low with children today significantly less likely to drink alcohol or think that getting drunk is okay than in previous generations,” said Portman Group chief exec John Timothy.

“Drinks producers and retailers have put a huge amount of effort into tackling underage drinking through robust ID schemes, Community Alcohol Partnerships and effective self-regulation of alcohol marketing and we are now seeing the positive impact these interventions are making.”

He also said that parents and guardians have played a key part in this education process with Christmas is a great opportunity to reinforce that alcohol can be enjoyed responsibly over the festive period.

This is the most recent survey in a series that began in 1982. Each survey since 1998 has included a core set of questions on smoking, drinking and drug use.

The survey report presents information on the percentage of pupils who have ever smoked, tried alcohol or taken drugs and their attitudes towards these behaviours.