Data for the UK underage population is presented below.
If you are looking for Local Authority (LA) level data, you may be interested in the What about YOUth 2014 (WAY 2014) survey. This survey asked 15 year olds in schools across England about different health behaviours including alcohol consumption.1 You can find Local Authority (LA) level data via Public Health England's data visualisation tool.
In 2016, over two-fifths (44%) aged 11-15 in England had drunk alcohol at least once (46% of girls and 43% of boys).2
The proportion of pupils who have ever had an alcoholic drink was found to increase with age from 15% of 11 year olds to 73% of 15 year olds.3
In 2015, 28% of 13 year old pupils and 66% of 15 year old pupils in Scotland reported ever having ever had an alcohol drink – the lowest rate since the survey began in 1990.4
In 2016, one in ten (10%) pupils aged 11-15 in England had drunk alcohol in the last week, however this cannot be compared to previous years because there was a change in the survey question. Three-fifths (62%) of those who drank in the last week had consumed alcohol only on one day in that week.5
On average, English pupils who said they drank alcohol in the last week consumed 6 units (median); equivalent to just over 2 pints of 4% beer. This was the same for both girls and boys. 18% of pupils who drank in the last week had consumed 15 or more units of alcohol.6
In 2016, almost half (45%) of pupils who had consumed alcohol in the last four weeks said that they had been drunk at least once during that time. Of those who said they had been drunk in the last four weeks, 63% of boys and 67% of girls said that they had done so deliberately.7
Although we cannot compare 2016 data to previous years, we can look at the trend found in the data from the last decade, until 2014 (the year before they changed the questionnaire). 2014 saw a continuation of a downward trend since 2003 in the proportion of pupils who had drunk in the last week (as shown in Figure 1).
In 2015, 4% of 13 year olds pupils and 17% of 15 year olds in Scotland reported drinking in the 7 days prior to completing the survey.8
In Scotland, 45% of 13 year old pupils who had ever had alcohol said that they had been drunk at least once.9 68% of 15 year old pupils in Scotland who had ever had alcohol said that they had been drunk at least once.10 Compared to 2013, the only significant change was found among 15 year old boys who had ever consumed alcohol as a smaller proportion of these reported that they had been drunk (68% in 2013 compared to 65% in 2015).11
In 2016, half (50%) of pupils aged 11-15 in England thought it was OK for someone of their age to try drinking alcohol, and about a quarter (24%) thought that it was OK to try smoking.12 Pupils were much less likely to approve of drug use: 11% thought it was OK for someone to try cannabis.13
Pupils in England were most likely to remember lessons on drug use (61%), and less likely to recall lessons on smoking (60%) or alcohol (58%).14
In 2015 in Scotland, 40% of 13 year old pupils thought it was 'ok' for someone their age to try drinking alcohol.15 While there has been an overall decrease in the acceptability of drinking among 13 year old pupils in Scotland since 2006, there was no significant decrease between 2013 and 2015.16
In 2016, 38% of pupils aged 11-15 in England said that they had obtained alcohol in the last four weeks. This has fluctuated over the last decade with 49% obtaining alcohol in 2004 and 28% obtaining alcohol in 2014. The most common ways of obtaining alcohol were to be given it by parents (22%), given it by friends (17%), to take it from home with permission (13%), or to ask someone else to buy it (11%).17
In 2016, 40% of 11-15 year old English pupils who drank alcohol said they bought it. Of these, 55% bought it from friends or relatives, 29% from someone else, 29% from an off-licence, and 27% from a shop or supermarket.18
Of pupils in Scotland who had ever had an alcoholic drink in 2015, 35% of 13 year olds were most likely to get alcohol at home.19 Of 15 year old pupils in Scotland who had ever had an alcoholic drink 39% were most likely to get alcohol from a friend.20
Pupils aged 11-15 in England are more likely to drink if they live with other people who drink alcohol. 79% of pupils who did not live with anyone who drank alcohol had never drunk alcohol themselves, compared with 31% of pupils who lived with three or more drinkers.21
There was a strong relationship between pupils’ drinking behaviour and their parents’ attitudes to their drinking. 75% of pupils who had never drunk alcohol said that their parents would not like them drinking. 86% of pupils who had drunk in the last week said that their parents did not mind them drinking as long as they didn't drink too much.22
Pupils were most likely to think that people of their age drink to look cool in front of their friends (74%), to be more sociable with friends (63%), because it gives them a rush (63%), or because their friends pressure them into it (61%).23
In 2016, pupils aged 11-15 in England who drank alcohol were most likely to do so in their own home (62%), someone else's home (41%), at parties with friends (43%), or somewhere outside (13%).24 Since 1996, there has been an increase in the proportions of pupils who usually drink at home or in other people's homes from just over half (52%) to four out of five (80%). The proportion drinking at parties has also increased, whilst the proportion of pupils drinking outside has decreased.25
In 2016, pupils who drank were most likely to do so with their parents (59%), friends of both sexes (48%), brothers, sisters or other relatives (37%) or friends of the same sex (36%). This is a change from recent years where pupils were more likely to say they drank with friends of both sexes than with their parents. In 2016 younger pupils (11-12 years) were most likely to drink with family members, older pupils (15 year olds) were most likely to drink with friends.26
In Scotland in 2015, the most common drinking location for 13 year olds was in their own home: 53% of those who reported having ever had an drink said that they usually drank at home.27 The next most common locations were drinking at someone else’s home (26%) and at parties with friends (22%).28
For 15 year olds in Scotland who had ever had an alcoholic drink, the most common drinking location was at parties with friends (48%).29 The next most common locations were drinking at their own home (43%) and drinking at someone else's home (41%).30