Young people in England aren’t just drinking less alcohol – a new study published in BMC Public Health shows that more of them are never taking up alcohol at all, and that the increase is widespread among young people.
Researchers at University College London analysed data from the annual Health Survey for England and found that the proportion of 16-24 year olds who don’t drink alcohol has increased from 18% in 2005 to 29% in 2015.
The authors found this trend to be largely due to an increasing number of people who had never been drinkers, from 9% in 2005 to 17% in 2015. There were also significant decreases in the number of young people who drank above recommended limits (from 43% to 28%) or who binge drank (27% to 18%). More young people were also engaging in weekly abstinence (from 35% to 50%)
Dr Linda Ng Fat, corresponding author of the study said: “Increases in non-drinking among young people were found across a broad range of groups, including those living in northern or southern regions of England, among the white population, those in full-time education, in employment and across all social classes and healthier groups. That the increase in non-drinking was found across many different groups suggests that non-drinking may becoming more mainstream among young people which could be caused by cultural factors.”
Dr Ng Fat said: “These trends are to be welcomed from a public-health standpoint. Factors influencing the shift away from drinking should be capitalised on going forward to ensure that healthier drinking behaviours in young people continue to be encouraged.”
Dr Linda Ng Fat added: “The increase in young people who choose not to drink alcohol suggests that this behaviour maybe becoming more acceptable, whereas risky behaviours such as binge drinking may be becoming less normalised.”
Increases in non-drinking however were not found among ethnic minorities, those with poor mental health and smokers suggesting that the risky behaviours of smoking and alcohol continue to cluster.
The researchers examined data on 9,699 people aged 16-24 years collected as part of the Health Survey for England 2005-2015, an annual, cross-sectional, nationally representative survey looking at changes in the health and lifestyles of people across England. The authors analysed the proportion of non-drinkers among social demographic and health sub-groups, along with alcohol units consumed by those that did drink and levels of binge drinking.
The authors caution that the cross-sectional, observational nature of this study does not allow for conclusions about cause and effect.
Notes to editor:
Communications Officer, BMC
T: +44 (0)20 3192 5730
UCL Media Relations
T: +44 (0) 20 3108 8515 / +44 (0) 7769 141006
E: rowan.walker @ucl.ac.uk
1. Research article:
Investigating the growing trend of nondrinking among young people; analysis of repeated cross-sectional surveys in England 2005–2015
Ng Fat et al. BMC Public Health 2018
The article is available at the journal website.
Please name the journal in any story you write. If you are writing for the web, please link to the article. All articles are available free of charge, according to BMC's open access policy.
2. BMC Public Health is an open access, peer-reviewed journal that considers articles on the epidemiology of disease and the understanding of all aspects of public health. The journal has a special focus on the social determinants of health, the environmental, behavioral, and occupational correlates of health and disease, and the impact of health policies, practices and interventions on the community.
3. About UCL (University College London): UCL was founded in 1826. We were the first English university established after Oxford and Cambridge, the first to open up university education to those previously excluded from it, and the first to provide systematic teaching of law, architecture and medicine. We are among the world's top universities, as reflected by performance in a range of international rankings and tables. UCL currently has over 39,000 students from 150 countries and over 12,500 staff. Our annual income is more than £1 billion. Visit www.ucl.ac.uk | Follow us on Twitter @uclnews | Watch our YouTube channel YouTube.com/UCLTV.
4. A pioneer of open access publishing, BMC has an evolving portfolio of high quality peer-reviewed journals including broad interest titles such as BMC Biology and BMC Medicine, specialist journals such as Malaria Journal and Microbiome, and the BMC series. At BMC, research is always in progress. We are committed to continual innovation to better support the needs of our communities, ensuring the integrity of the research we publish, and championing the benefits of open research. BMC is part of Springer Nature, giving us greater opportunities to help authors connect and advance discoveries across the world.