Page last updated at 11:39 GMT, Thursday, 23 July 2009 12:39 UK

Teen drink and drug use declining

Teenager drinking
Boys drink more than girls

Rates of drug use and drinking are continuing to fall among young teenagers, annual NHS figures show.

The proportion of 8,000 11-to-15-year-olds surveyed who have never drunk alcohol rose slightly to 48% in 2008.

However, those who do drink alcohol seem to be consuming more, the NHS Information Centre said.

The survey also found that pupils are more likely to drink if they live with other drinkers and if their parents do not mind them drinking.

It is the first time the annual questionnaire has looked at the relationship between teenage drinking and drinking habits of the rest of the household.

If we are to encourage healthier attitudes among the young, adults need to think more carefully about the examples we set for our children
Professor Ian Gilmore

Pupils were three times more likely to drink if they lived with other drinkers.

Only 5% of young teens in non-drinking households had drunk alcohol in the past week compared with 31% of those who live with three or more drinkers.

Parental views on drinking was also found to have an effect on the teens behaviour.

Around half of pupils said their parents did not mind them drinking as long as they did not drink too much.

But only 5% of those who said their parents would disapprove of their drinking had drunk alcohol in the past week compared with 28% of those who think their parents do not mind them drinking within reason and 59% of those whose parents let them drink as much as they like.

Downward trend

The number who had tried drugs at least once fell from 25% to 22%

And rates of smoking in young teenagers remains steady having dropped dramatically since the 1980s.

Although rates of drinking shows a downward trend, the average consumption among those who drink is increasing with 14.6 units in the last week in 2008 compared with 12.7 units in 2007.

Children's minister Dawn Primarolo said: "I am pleased that today's statistics show a continued decline in the number of young people drinking alcohol, however it is disappointing to see that those who choose to drink, are drinking more than last year.

"But what today's findings also demonstrate is the need to make sure guidance and information is suitably targeted at parents as well as their children."

Professor Ian Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians said: "While it's absolutely right to focus on issues of price, and illegal sales it is equally vital that parents, teachers and other role models acknowledge that their own behaviour shapes children's attitudes towards alcohol.

"If we are to encourage healthier attitudes among the young, adults need to think more carefully about the examples we set for our children."

Alcohol Concern chief executive Don Shenker said the figures were worrying.

"We've seeing a slight decline in the number of children who drink, but those who do drink are drinking much more.

"Too many young people are now drinking at or above safe adult levels, yet their bodies are less able to cope with the harm alcohol can cause."

Alison Rogers, chief executive of the British Liver Trust said: "The influence that parents have on their children's drinking is incredible and something that shouldn't be overlooked.

"Sadly, we know that increasing numbers of young people are suffering serious health problems, including fatal liver damage, due to drinking too much alcohol."



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SEE ALSO
Teen drink and drug use falling
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Teen drinking 'remains a worry'
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'Fewer' teenagers drink regularly
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