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Young people and alcohol

Lads drinking
Published: June 2010

Aim

We wanted to find out what encourages young people to drink alcohol, how drinking relates to other behaviours and what the causal links between these behaviours might be. We also explored the relationship between alcohol and educational outcomes among young people at the age of 16/17.

Findings

  • Around 55% of young people had tried alcohol at 14, rising to 85% by age of 17.
  • Young people were more likely to have tried alcohol if they were female or if they had been bullied in the last year.
  • Having an ethnic minority background and being religious made you less likely to try alcohol.
  • Pupils were more likely to drink in schools where there was a higher proportion of white pupils or fewer eligible for free school meals.
  • Among young people who had not previously tried alcohol at ages 14 or 15, playing truant, shoplifting, going to parties or pubs and hanging around near home or in town, smoking and trying cannabis were all predictive of trying alcohol in the following year.
  • The relationship between trying alcohol and the subsequent engagement in other risky behaviours tended to be stronger than the other way around, with trying alcohol strongly predictive of increased truancy, smoking, trying cannabis, and particularly criminal behaviour.
  • Drinking was associated with a number of negative educational outcomes, including being not in employment, education or training (NEET), lower GCSE scores, and not remaining in full-time education beyond the age of 16.

Methodology

The study used data from the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England, which began in 2004; it interviews over 15,500 young people aged 14 sampled from schools in England. The same young people were re-interviewed every year, allowing us to follow their progress up to age 17.

Related content 

England’s changing health since the 1990s - an online tool that allows users to interact with and explore trend data from the Health Survey for England, including young people's drinking.