How much do teenagers drink?

The amount of alcohol consumed by teenagers has gone in waves. Surveys of annual consumption by ninth graders and year 2 upper secondary school students have been conducted in Sweden since 1997 and 2004, respectively. The latest survey shows drinking has fallen to historically low levels.

YOUNG PEOPLE ARE DRINKING LESS

Drinking levels amongst young people fell in the late 1970s and 80s, but consumption increased again in the 1990s, and by the early part of the new millennium, the highest consumption levels ever were being noted amongst boys in the ninth grade (5.3 litres of pure alcohol per person per year), and the highest level since the 1970s amongst girls in the ninth grade (3.2 litres).

Consumption levels have since declined and the difference between boys’ and girls’ drinking levels has evened out. In the past year, ninth graders – both boys and girls – drank an average of 0.8 litres per person per year. Annual consumption levels have also declined amongst upper secondary school students, and by 2021, the difference between boys’ and girls’ drinking levels was fairly small, at 2.5 litres for boys and 2.1 litres for girls. 

6% of ninth graders drink a lot of alcohol at least once a month.

FEWER DRINK HEAVILY AND FREQUENTLY

The amount that young people drink every year doesn’t, however, show the whole picture. It’s equally important to look at how many are drinking in a particularly risky way and in order to get drunk.

Six per cent of ninth graders say that at least once a month, they drink a quantity of alcohol equivalent to at least four large cans of strong beer in a single session.

The corresponding consumption figure for students in year 2 of upper secondary school is 19 per cent. The number drinking heavily and frequently is considerably lower than was the case 15 years ago.   

"Both the percentage of young people drinking alcohol and the amount of alcohol they consume have fallen by over 50 per cent in the past ten years. This is a very positive trend and shows the importance of addressing this issue.”

Charlotta Rehnman Wigstad, Director, The Swedish Council for Information on Alcohol and Other Drugs (CAN)

THE MOST COMMON PROBLEMS

 The reduction in teenager’s alcohol consumption levels has also resulted in a reduction in alcohol-related problems amongst young people. But alcohol still causes problems for young people – most commonly, damage to possessions, getting into fights, and being photographed or filmed in an embarrassing or compromising situation. 

More to read about the same topic

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

When parents are not around

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