Reducing harm caused by alcohol

Alcohol and young people

Alcohol can put young people at serious risk of harm, whether they are drinking themselves or being affected by the drinking of a parent or other adult in their lives.

The current scientific evidence is that an alcohol-free childhood is the healthiest and best option. Young people's bodies and brains are more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol because they are still developing.

Drinking can cause short and long-term harm to health, as well as put young people in risky situations when drunk. Research shows that the earlier a young person starts drinking alcohol, the more likely they are to drink in ways that can be harmful later in life.

Young people are under a lot of pressure to start drinking at a young age. Alcohol today is cheap, readily available and heavily marketed. As a result, young people are growing up in a pro-alcohol society where drinking is seen as the norm.

Under-age drinking

The Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (SALSUS) 2013 shows:

  • Two thirds (68%) of 13 year olds and a third (30%) of 15 year olds have never had an alcoholic drink.
  • 4% of 13 year olds and a fifth (19%) of 15 year olds had an alcoholic drink in the last week.
  • 44% of 13 year olds who had ever had alcohol reported being drunk at least once, compared with 70% of 15 year olds.
  • Beer, lager and cider are the most commonly consumed drinks among 13 and 15 year olds.
  • 13 year olds were most likely to report usually drinking alcohol at home, whilst 15 year olds were most likely to report drinking alcohol at someone else's home or at a party.