Underage drinking in the UK—
Few young people nowadays wait until they’re 18 to drink. By the time they reach 15, more than eight out of 10 have already tried alcohol.(1) However, the underage drinking situation in the UK might not be quite what you think.
Newspaper headlines about ‘drunk hoodies’ may suggest that most young people drink regularly. However, the number of teenagers who partake in underage drinking has actually declined in recent years, but those who do drink are consuming more alcohol, more often.(2)
While there have been official Government drinking guidelines for adults for many years, until recently there were none for under-18s and their parents. In December 2009, government advice for young people and their parents about alcohol was published by the Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson. Far from promoting underage drinking, it stated that children should not drink before they’re 15, and between 15 and 17 they should only drink when they’re supervised by a parent or other adult.
The guidance also emphasises the importance of parents’ influence on their children’s drinking. Attitudes to alcohol can often be passed down from parent to child because children see their parents as role models.
Getting drunk with friends used to be seen as a teenage rite of passage and a way to find out about the side effects of alcohol first-hand. But, according to official figures, today’s teenagers are more likely to make binge drinking a regular part of their social life.(3)