Young People and Drinking

Did you know?
Young people, especially girls, are more vulnerable to sexual assault if they have been drinking

How much young people drink

While your teen may tell you that 'everybody is drinking', research indicates that almost one in five Victorians aged 16 and 17 have never drunk alcohol.

As the evidence below indicates, though, many of those that do drink alcohol, drink too much, too often.

When do young people start drinking?

According to the 2008 Victorian Secondary School Student survey, 56 per cent of Victorian students aged between 12 and 17 describe themselves as non-drinkers. Another big group describe themselves as occasional drinkers (21 per cent), and less than one in five say they are ‘party drinkers' (18 per cent).

For some Australian young people however, risky drinking starts early.

Around one in ten 12 to 17 year olds reported binge drinking in the week before the 2008 Australian Secondary Students Alcohol and Drug Survey.

The 2009 Victorian Youth Alcohol and Drug Survey reveals that around one in four young people have their first drink before their 15th birthday. Young people who start early tend to:

  • drink more than those who don't start drinking until they are at least 15
  • drink to very risky levels at least once a month (31 per cent, compared with 12 per cent)
  • have been unable to remember what happened while they were drinking at least once in the past year (66 per cent, compared with 47 per cent)
  • feel that their drinking is having a negative effect on their health (37 per cent compared with 22 per cent).

How much do young people drink?

The Victorian Secondary School Student survey of alcohol consumption reports that the vast majority of students do not drink at hazardous levels on a regular basis.

Around 97 per cent of 12 to 15 year olds and 84 per cent of 16 and 17 year olds did not drink at risky levels in the week before the survey. In fact, the proportion of students who drink at risky levels has been dropping since 1996.

For 16 and 17 year olds, risky drinking is significantly lower than in all survey years between 1999 and 2005.

And not all 17 years olds who do drink, drink at risky levels. In fact, 54 per cent of the 17 year olds in Victoria who are current drinkers do not drink at risky levels.

Where do young people get and drink alcohol?

The 2009 Victorian Youth Alcohol and Drug Survey indicates that 16 and 17 year olds tend to drink alcohol:

  • at private parties (58 per cent)
  • at friend's houses (53 per cent)
  • in their own homes (36 per cent).

Less than 7 per cent of the survey respondents said they usually drank alcohol in licensed premises, and only 4 per cent said they usually drank in public places.

Most young people (62 per cent) said they got their alcohol from friends or acquaintances. Around 44 per cent said their parents bought it for them, and around one in ten said they bought it themselves, or it was bought for them by a brother or sister.

What about if parents supply the alcohol?

It is true that many parents buy alcohol for their underage children. It's also true that young people are only half as likely to drink to harmful levels when they get the alcohol from their parents. Parental supply correlates with moderate drinking and fewer drinking-related problems.

Also, students who obtain their alcohol from someone other than their parents are more likely to consume alcohol at a party or friends house and without parental supervision. The risks are lower for children whose parents are involved with them in working through the issues of alcohol consumption.

That said, some young people whose parents supply them with alcohol still drink enough to risk both short term and long term harm.