The proportion of pupils who have ever had an alcoholic drink continues to fall, but there has been an increase in the proportion of 13-year-olds who reported being drunk in the past week.
That is the headline finding from the new Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (SALSUS), which also found that in 2015, 28% of 13-year-old pupils (28%) and two-thirds (66%) of 15-year-olds in Scotland had consumed alcohol at least once.
Less than half of 13-year-olds (45%) who had ever had alcohol had been drunk at least once, rising to around two-thirds of Scottish schoolchildren (68%) by the time they had reached 15 years of age.
Among those who had a drink in the last week, just under half of 13-year-olds (47%) and over half of 15-year-olds (57%) had been drunk over the same period. However, the proportion of 13-year-olds in this bracket who had been drunk in that time rose since the previous SALSUS in 2013 (illustrated below). Girls were also more likely than boys to have been drunk in the same period.
The survey also revealed that pupils were most likely to get alcohol from their home, a friend, or a relative. Direct purchase of alcohol from a business was rare; the majority of pupils who had ever consumed alcohol, never tried to buy it from either a ‘shop, supermarket, or off-licence’, or a ‘pub, bar or club’ (pictured, below right).
Overall, the long-term picture is one of declining consumption levels. Underage drinking in the last week in Scotland has fluctuated since 1990 but has been decreasing, for the most part, since 2002. Drinking in the last week has remained unchanged between 2013 and 2015, with the exception of a small decrease among 15-year-old boys: 19% drank in the last week in 2013, compared with 16% in 2015. However, the rise in the proportion of 13-year-olds who reported being drunk in the last week over the same period threatens to reverse these trends.