Dramatic drop in teenage drinking in Scotland

26 September 2018, 08:49

Alcohol

Teenage drinking in Scotland has dropped dramatically in recent years, research has shown.

Weekly drinking among 15-year-olds declined from 41% in 2002 to 11% of girls and 14% of boys in 2014, according to a World Health Organisation report.

A shift in teen culture and changes in household income were cited as possible reasons adolescents are drinking less.

The research was led by the University of St Andrews.

Dr Jo Inchley, senior research fellow in the School of Medicine and lead editor of the report, said: "Overall reductions in harmful drinking have been greatest in countries that traditionally have had higher prevalence, such as Great Britain and the Nordic region.

"This makes it clear that change is possible; however, more should be done to ensure that adolescents are effectively protected from the harms caused by alcohol."

The decline in teenage drinking in Scotland is the second largest among girls and fourth largest for boys out of the 36 European countries included in the study.

Boys in Scotland were most likely to report drinking beer on a weekly basis, at 9%, while girls were most likely to drink spirits, at 7% of those surveyed.

A third of Scottish girls and boys have been drunk twice or more in their lifetime - down from around 50% in 2002 but still placing Scotland in the top 10 in Europe.

More than a quarter of girls (27%) and almost a third of boys (30%) started drinking alcohol at age 13 or younger.

The highest prevalence of regular teenage drinking was found in southern Mediterranean countries and Central Eastern Europe.

The data used in the report came from the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) study which has collected information on Scottish young people's health and well-being every four years since 1990.

Dr Inchley added: "Studies have shown than young people who are exposed to alcohol marketing are more likely to start drinking at an earlier age and to drink more.

"We therefore need to implement stricter policies to restrict advertising to young people, alongside other measures which have been shown to be effective, such as taxation, minimum pricing and enforcing age restrictions on the sale of alcohol."