The latest report from the Health & Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) has been released, showing figures for smoking, drinking and drug use amongst school pupils mostly aged 11-15 in England.
The proportion of pupils who had ever consumed alcohol (38%) was at the lowest since the survey began in 2003 (61%); compared to 2013 though, the 2014 figure was down 2% in boys, whilst for girls the figure remained at 39%.
The proportion of pupils who drink of course rises with age; 69% of 15 year olds reported having drunk alcohol ever ('had a proper alcoholic drink – a whole drink, not just a sip'), with 18% of 15 year olds having drunk alcohol in the last week. CMO guidance recommends children 15 and under do not drink alcohol at all.
Some indicators were also a cause for concern for health bodies. The Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) highlighted that mean average alcohol consumption in the last week among underage drinkers was up on the previous year - up from 8.2 units in 2013 to 9.8 in 2014.
Of those 11-15 year olds who drank in the last week (8%), over a fifth (22%) drank 15 or more units during the week, and around half had drank 6 or more units. In the wider context, young people's drinking reportedly still remains above the European average for prevalence and likelihood of binge drinking.
Alcohol Concern tweeted nearly a quarter of a million young people had drunk alcohol in the last week, and in a press release said a 'staggering 10,000 children and young people accessed treatment last year citing alcohol as a reason' - report here.
As well as the HSCIC report, Drinkaware also released a new Monitor report, based on children and parent surveys to explore how attitudes and behaviours are linked to young people's drinking. HSCIC also explored some of the same social aspects, and by in large the findings are consistent.
Drinkware's Monitor found an important link with parental involvement - young people who reported drinking unsupervised were more likely to get drunk and experience harm. HSCIC report that pupils living with people who drink alcohol increased the likelihood of drinking. 86% of those who lived with non-drinkers had never consumed alcohol themselves.
HSCIC reported the reasons pupils thought their peers drink were: to look cool in front of friends (79%), to be more sociable with friends (67%), because it gives them a rush (66%) and because their friends pressure them into it (64%). Drinkware found similar motivations, but also that 25% of those with low mental wellbeing drink at least once a week – vs 10% of those with high mental wellbeing.
Drinkaware also reported that 12% of 10-17 year-olds who drink have suffered a serious harm as a result (hospitalisation, being in a fight, trouble with the police or being a victim of crime).
Recently a Demos report offered views into why young people were drinking less. However its focus on social factors may give insufficient attention to environmental factors such as price and availability - mentioned in the report but not explored.