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Alcohol use in children "on the decline"

Smoking, drinking and drug use among school children is on the decline, says a report from The NHS Information Centre out today.

It shows:

  • The percentage of 11-to-15-year-olds who had taken drugs stood at 22% in 2009, compared to 29% in 2001 (the first year in which the current method of measuring drug use was used).
  • The percentage who had tried smoking at least once was 29% - the lowest figure since the survey began in 1982 when it was 53%.
  • The percentage who had drunk alcohol was 51% in 2009 compared to 61% in 2003 from when the current downward trend in alcohol use began.

But while, overall, smoking, drinking and drug use has been declining among the age group, the report shows it becomes more common as children get older.

For example, in 2009, only one in 50 11-year-olds had taken drugs in the last month compared to nearly one in five 15-year-olds; 3% of 11-year-olds had drunk alcohol in the past week compared to 38% of 15-year-olds; and 1% of 11-year-olds had smoked in the past week compared to 20% of 15-year-olds.

The report, Smoking, drinking and drug use among young people in England in 2009, details findings from an annual survey which took place across 247 English secondary schools and surveyed nearly 7,700 pupils aged 11-15, representing an estimated population of around 3.1 million pupils.

Chief Executive of The NHS Information Centre, Tim Straughan, said: "The survey tracks the changing behaviour and attitudes of young people with regard to smoking, drinking and drug use. It provides insights and data that staff at the frontline will find helpful when planning services."

NHS Information Centre