Youth drinking – then and now

The number of young people who drink alcohol has changed over the years. Since the 1970’s Sweden has been tracking the number of school students who drink alcohol - and if so, how much and how often. The past few years consumption levels have been all time low.


The Swedish Council for Information on Alcohol and Other Drugs (CAN) look at the use of alcohol and drugs amongst school students, every year. In the most recent survey, 42 per cent of girls and 33 per cent of boys in the ninth grade said that they had drunk alcohol over the past year. These figures mean that drinking amongst high school students remains at low levels. The trend towards reduced drinking amongst ninth graders has levelled off in recent years, but the last two years have shown a renewed decline.


67 per cent of 2nd year upper secondary school students state that they drink alcohol. Drinking alcohol is more common amongst girls (71 per cent) than amongst boys (64 per cent).  Viewed in a longer-term perspective a lot has happened. In 2004 almost 90 per cent of students in the 2nd year of upper secondary school said that they drank alcohol.

Teenage friends sitting in a staircase
Photo: Pablo Frisk

One time, I grew my moustache out and went to the store to buy mid-strength beer. The cashier didn’t ask for ID or anything.

Stefano, aged 16, Umeå


The percentage of ninth graders who got drunk before the age of 14 has fallen from around 20 per cent in 2000 to 6 per cent in this year’s survey.


The decline in drinking by teenagers is by no means unique to Sweden, the same trend is seen in several European and English-speaking countries. Find out more in the ”Young People Who Don’t Drink” section.


The fact that the trends are moving in the right direction doesn’t mean that alcohol is no longer a problem amongst young people.

If the positive trend towards reduced drinking amongst young people is to last, efforts by society and engaged parents are vital. Remember that your role as a parent is very important. 

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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