Why do teenagers drink?

First and foremost, let’s get one thing straight: every teenager is completely different. Some of them have given beer a try, some have never drunk any alcohol at all, and others drink every weekend. Then, of course, there are those who have decided not to drink at all. But of those who do drink – and that’s fewer than half of all ninth graders – there are some reasons that come up time and time again when asked why they drink.

To belong

We were all young once, and maybe you remember that being a teenager was far from easy at times. As a teenager, you sometimes feel a little lost and alone, and more than anything else, you want to fit in. And that’s when alcohol can look very tempting, because it makes you feel like “part of the gang” when you’re doing what everyone else does. If other people are doing something, it’s often easier to just go along and do the same thing too – much easier than sticking to your guns and saying “no.”

You drink to try something new and to see what it's like being drunk.

Johanna, aged 15, Umeå

To give adulthood a try

When you’re a teenager, you often want to feel like an adult, not a child. But if you think about it, there aren’t that many adult things that teenagers can or are allowed to do – things like living in your own apartment, being paid a monthly wage, or studying at university. Alcohol, on the other hand, is one of all these adult things that teenagers can get hold of, and sometimes it’s the desire to feel grown up that tempts teenagers to drink.

You drink to get drunk, and because it's fun.

Ronja, aged 16, Umeå

Because it seems exciting

It’s hardly surprising that teenagers are curious about alcohol. They’ve seen people drinking in films and TV programmes since they were small. And they’ve probably encountered the odd drunken adult or two on Midsummer’s or New Year’s Eve. So one fine day, they maybe decide to try it for themselves. To find out how it tastes, how it works, and how it feels to be drunk.

For courage

The whole new friends, sex and intimacy thing can be a sensitive subject. And alcohol can feel like something that helps you take that first leap into the unknown. Or in simple terms, it can make you feel a bit braver and a bit more attractive. And if it doesn’t quite work out as you’d hoped, you can always blame the alcohol. Just like an adult.

Because you think it’s expected of you

There are a lot of unwritten rules about what you’re supposed to do and how you’re supposed to be. It’s hard standing up in the face of other people’s expectations – and that’s true whether you’re 14 or 44. And just like adults, teenagers naturally have their own norms when it comes to alcohol and drinking. If you don’t drink on New Year’s Eve or bring your own bottle to the party, people might think you’re weird.

You're scared that if you don't drink, people will slag you off to others. Tell them that you're boring, stuff like that.

Petrus, aged 16, Gothenburg

Because it seems like part of life

Films and TV programmes show people drinking quite heavily with no particular ill effects. Young people are bombarded with pictures of extravagant drinks with Sunday brunch and glasses of wine against the sunset on social media and in blogs. And young people are also affected by alcohol advertising. They’re a malleable target audience and some alcohol producers try to influence their potential customers before they’re even old enough to legally buy alcohol. And the advertising is presented in the sort of places that young people hang out – such as social media.

More to read about the same topic

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?

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

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.

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?

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