The truth about
alcohol and
young people

When it comes to alcohol and young people, it can be difficult to sort the myths from the facts. Find out more.

Most young people drink.

False!

Fewer children are now drinking. More than half of all children aged 11 to 15 years have never had an alcoholic drink and nine out of 10 do not drink regularly 1. Remember, it’s healthiest and safest for children to drink nothing before the age of 18 and it’s especially important that they don’t consume alcohol at all before the age of 15 2.

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Young people are more likely
to drink than they were in the past

False!

More young people are choosing not to drink alcohol than in years gone by.

Only one in 10 children aged 11-15 years drinks regularly compared to over one in four in 2001 3.

Only around one in 20 (6%) aged 16 – 17 years has been binge drinking in the previous week compared to almost one in three (30%) in 2002 4.

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Giving children small amounts will
make them less curious about alcohol.

False!

While it may sound like a sensible thing to do, all of the evidence shows it is more likely to give your child a taste for alcohol and become heavier drinkers in the future. Children who begin drinking before age 15 are more likely to become dependent on alcohol later in life 5.

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Providing children with alcohol in a supervised situation
helps them to handle drinking when they’re older.

False!

Children whose parents don’t mind them drinking are more likely to drink more regularly and a greater quantity of alcohol 6. They can be more likely to drink when you’re not around. And they are more likely to develop alcohol problems later in life.

All the evidence shows it is best to delay a child’s first drink as long as possible. Parents can discuss the issues and dangers associated with drinking and set clear rules. Children are more likely to listen to you than anyone else 7.

Nine out of 10 children aged 11 to 15 don’t drink regularly – BUT those who do are on average drinking the equivalent of nine  shots of vodka (units) a week 8.

An alcohol free childhood is the healthiest and best option. Alcohol should never be consumed by children under 15 years. But if children aged 15, 16, 17 years choose to drink this should be supervised by a parent/carer and never more than once per week and no more than three units 9.

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Children who drink alcohol with their
own family are less likely to binge drink.

False!

Children who begin drinking at a young age tend to drink more and are more likely to drink to get drunk 10.

It’s best for your child to delay drinking for as long as possible, preferably until they turn 18. Even then, they may not want to drink. More and more young adults are choosing not to drink for a range of reasons – for their health and appearance, for money, career and job prospects.

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It’s OK to give kids drinks like fruity ciders and alcopops
– they’re weaker than beer, wine and spirits.

False!

Some parents say they would never give their child spirits, and there is a myth that fruit-based drinks are less strong. The truth is they all contain the same kind of alcohol. It’s whether they drink at all and how much they drink that counts e.g.:

A standard 25ml shot of vodka = 1 unit of alcohol

440ml fruit cider (4.5% ABV) = 2 shots of vodka

275ml beer (4.8%ABV)= 1.3 shots of vodka

275ml Alcopop (5.5% ABV)= 1.5 shots of vodka

700ml (standard bottle) of spirits (40% ABV) = 28 shots of vodka

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The French give their children alcohol
and they don’t have any problems.

False!

This is a widely held view but it is simply not true.

France has a higher level of alcohol consumption and higher rates of binge drinking than the UK. France also has twice the rate of alcohol dependence than the UK 11.

 

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  1. NHS Digital (2016). Smoking, drinking and drugs use among young people.
  2. CMO for England (2009) Guidance on the consumption of alcohol by children and young people.
  3. NHS Digital (2016). Smoking, drinking and drugs use among young people.
  4. ScHARR, University of Sheffield (2018) Youth Drinking in Decline
  5. CMO for England (2009) Guidance on the consumption of alcohol by children and young people.
  6. Balance (2016) Children and Young People’s Perceptions Survey
  7. CMO for England (2009) Guidance on the consumption of alcohol by children and young people.
  8. NHS Digital (2016). Smoking, drinking and drugs use among young people.
  9. CMO for England (2009) Guidance on the consumption of alcohol by children and young people.
  10. CMO for England (2009) Guidance on the consumption of alcohol by children and young people.
  11. World Health Organization (2018). Global status report on alcohol and health 2018.