The number of youngsters drinking alcohol in Scotland at least once a week has fallen by more than a third over the last decade, according to a new study led by Professor Candace Currie, Director of the Child and Adolescent Research Unit at Edinburgh University. The Health in School Aged Children (HBSC) study is a World Health Organisation cross- national study.
A team at Edinburgh University questioned nearly 7,000 young Scots to produce the report looking at changes in young peoples’ wellbeing through the years.
Their responses showed the rate of smoking among 15-year-olds has fallen 5% since 2002, from 16% to 11%. The number of young people drinking alcohol at least once a week dropped by more than a third, and experimental and regular cannabis use halved.
At age 11, 3% of young people report drinking alcohol every week (4% of boys and 2% of girls). 10% of 13-year olds and 27% of 15- year olds are weekly drinkers. Among 13 and 15-year olds, there is no gender difference in weekly drinking.
In all six surveys since 1990, young people have been asked about their alcohol consumption frequency. The highest rates of weekly drinking were found in 1998 (45% of girls and 44% of boys). Reporting of weekly drinking in 2010 is similar to that in 1990, with a particularly large decline since 2006 among both boys and girls (29% of boys in 2010 compared with 39% in 2006 and 25% of girls in 2010 compared with 36% in 2006) .
Types of alcohol drinks
Young people were asked to report how frequently they drink each of seven listed alcoholic drinks. They were instructed to include those times when they only drink a small amount. Beer is the alcoholic drink most commonly consumed at least once a week by 15-year old boys, whereas, for 15-year old girls, spirits and alcopops are the preferred drinks. Boys are almost 5 times more likely to drink beer weekly than girls.
Overall, a fifth of young people (20%) have been drunk on at least two occasions. Prevalence of drunkenness is much higher among older adolescents; 43% of 15-year olds report having been drunk at least twice compared with 15% of 13-year olds and 2% of 11-year olds. At age 15, girls are more likely than boys to report drunkenness (47% of girls compared with 40% of boys).
Reporting of drunkenness among 15-year olds increased in the 1990s and then subsequently declined. Among boys, prevalence in 2010 (40%) is similar to that in 1990 (44%). Among girls, rates of drunkenness have declined slightly since the late 1990s, but have not changed since 2006 (48%), and remain higher in 2010 (47%) than in 1990 (36%).
Daily sweet consumption reduced by a third and consumption of crisps and chips halved.
Most young people (87%) said they were satisfied with their life. There was an increase in the number of children reporting that their family was financially well off, and a higher percentage felt they could talk to their fathers about their problems. TV viewing decreased but, despite this, less than a fifth (19% of boys and 11% of girls) of those interviewed met UK Government guidelines on weekly exercise.
The findings from the Health in School-aged Children (HBSC) Scotland National Report was funded by NHS Health Scotland.
Professor Candace Currie, Director of the Child and Adolescent Research Unit at Edinburgh University, said: “These findings are extremely encouraging with improvements in several areas relating to children’s wellbeing... This study has given us a uniqueopportunity to track key areas of health among young people and compare Scotland’s progress to other countries.”