How much do teenagers drink?

The amount of alcohol that teenagers drink on a yearly basis varies. Surveys of the annual consumption of ninth graders have been carried out in Sweden since 1977 and surveys regarding year 2 upper secondary school students since 2004.

Alcohol consumption is declining

Drinking levels fell in the late 1970s and early 80s, but in the 90s, consumption levels rose again, and by 2000, boys in the 9th grade were drinking 5.3 litres of pure alcohol per year, which is the highest volume ever measured. The figures for girls peaked in 2005, when they drank 3.2 litres of pure alcohol (apart from the first year of 1977 when the volume was even higher). Consumption levels by boys and girls have been more or less on a par with one another in recent years, and in 2018, totalled 1.0 litre. Annual consumption levels amongst upper secondary school students have also fallen over time and boys and girls drink, on average, 3.0 litres and 2.4 litres, respectively.

We usually share a bottle of spirits if there's two of us. That's fine for an evening. And if there's some left over, you can always save it for the next time.

Alicia, aged 15, Örebro

The percentage who drink heavily and often is decreasing

The amount that young people drink every year doesn’t give the whole picture, however: it’s equally important to look at how many are drinking in a risky way and when they’re drinking. 7 per cent of ninth graders said that they binge drink (one bottle of wine or corresponding amount of other alcoholic beverages) at least once a month. The corresponding figure for students in year 2 of upper secondary school was 24 per cent in 2018. These figures are considerably lower than 10 years ago, and are the lowest levels since the measurements began.

Consumption has fallen by more than half in just 10 years. It’s young people who are paving the way. Not adults.

Håkan Leifman, The Swedish Council for Information on Alcohol and Other Drugs (CAN)

The commonest problems

The Swedish Council for Information on Alcohol and Other Drugs (CAN) also asks, as part of their survey of school students, about the sort of problems young people have experienced in connection to alcohol. Here are some of the most common responses by teenagers who have drunk alcohol during the past 12 months:

More to read about the same topic

Teenager’s drinking habits

Not only is it illegal to buy alcohol for young people, but most adults think that alcohol is something teenagers should be avoiding. So where are teenagers getting their alcohol? How much do they drink? And what sort of problems do young people experience in connection to alcohol?

Useful contacts and more info

It can sometimes be good to talk to someone who knows a bit more about teenagers and alcohol, or about anything else, for that matter.

If you want to do more

There’s a lot you can do to support and be there for teenagers. Maybe you can take part in night-time patrols, or make it easier for them to say “no”, or help promote a smarter approach to alcohol in some other way.

Other important topics to read about

Teenagers and alcohol

There are many considerations that can easily arise when your child becomes a teenager. But first and foremost: how do young people think about drinking themselves? And why is it more dangerous to drink alcohol in adolescence than as an adult?

Take responsibility

Maybe you sometimes feel pretty helpless as a parent. But there’s a lot you can do. As always showing that you care, that you’re there and that you are happy to listen. And often it’s important to be clear about what you expect of your teenager.

If parents are not around

Festivals, home parties and trips abroad are examples of situations where adults are rarely present. There are some pitfalls that you, as a parent, should be aware of and that you can teach your teenager how to handle.

Yes or no?

The clearer you communicate your expectations, the easier it is for your teenager to take a stand or do what you say. Also, think about what sort of message and values you’re conveying to your child.

The teenage years

The teenage years are a very special time in your child’s life. Teenagers are navigating the frontier lands between childhood and adulthood and there are a lot of new things to handle: school, friends, being allowed to stay out late, sex, parties and – not least – alcohol.

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