Underage drinking falls to record low, Government stats reveal

By Noli Dinkovski

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Underage drinking Drinking culture

The figure of 11 to 15-year-olds who claim to have drunk alcohol at least once continues to fall
The figure of 11 to 15-year-olds who claim to have drunk alcohol at least once continues to fall
The rate of underage drinking has fallen to its lowest level since records began more than a quarter of a century ago, according to official government figures.

Stats released by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) show that 39% of 11 to 15-year-olds said they had drunk alcohol at least once, down from 61% in 2003.

The percentage is lower than at any time since 1988, when the survey first measured the prevalence of drinking in this age group.

Meanwhile, 9% said they had drunk alcohol in the last week. This proportion has fallen from 25% in 2003.

Of those that had claimed to have drunk in the last week, 60% said they had drunk more than four units on each occasion, with little variation between boys and girls.

No questions were asked about sources of alcohol or frequency of pub visits, and no figures were available for 16 to 17-year-olds.

Well-established trend

British Beer & Pub Association chief executive Brigid Simmonds suggested the fall in underage drinking is becoming a well-established trend, which is also in line with a fall in harmful drinking.

She said: “We certainly believe that education and awareness programmes, and targeted help for the minority who misuse alcohol, are the best ways of keeping the trend moving in the right direction – as is working closely with the Government, through the Public Health Responsibility deal, and investing in programmes and campaigns such as Challenge 21 and Drinkaware.”

Kate Nicholls, strategic affairs director at the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers said the figures are testimony to the effort put in by alcohol retailers to drive out under-age purchases “and by the industry as a whole to promote not just a responsible retailing but also a responsible consumption message to consumers”.

“As a result, not only are young people drinking less but the numbers not drinking at all are at an all time high,” she added.

Sustained fall

The decline in underage drinking has also been welcomed by the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA).

WSTA chief executive Miles Beale said: “The fall in underage drinking represents a sustained, long-term trend. Young people are now drinking less, and those that do, are drinking less frequently.    

“The roll-out of industry-led initiatives like Challenge 25 and Community Alcohol Partnerships, which are targeted at reducing underage sales of alcohol and tackling underage drinking, are clearly having a positive impact.”

The 2013 Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use Among Young People in England​ annual survey also revealed a decline in smoking and drug use among young people.

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