Youth drinking – then and now

The Swedish Council for Information on Alcohol and Other Drugs (CAN) has been tracking upper secondary school students’ use of alcohol and other drugs since the 1970s. They study how many ninth graders and students in the 2nd year of upper secondary school drink alcohol, and if so, how often and how much.


In the most recent survey of school students, 43 per cent of girls and 30 per cent of boys in the ninth grade said that they had drunk alcohol in the past year, which means that drinking at high school has fallen to historically low levels. The trend towards reduced drinking amongst ninth graders has levelled off in recent years, but we are now seeing a decline in the figures for last year.  

67 per cent of upper secondary school students say that they drink alcohol, corresponding to a very small decline since the previous survey in 2019. It is also apparent that more girls (71 per cent) than boys (64 per cent) drink alcohol. Viewed from a longer-term perspective, a lot has changed when it comes to upper secondary school students’ alcohol habits, too: in 2004, almost 90 per cent of students in the 2nd year of upper secondary school said that they drank alcohol.  

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. 

67% of upper secondary school students say that they drink alcohol.  

What effect did the pandemic have?

It’s difficult to know what effect the Covid-19 pandemic had on alcohol consumption and experiences of other drugs in these age groups. But it’s worth bearing in mind that the surveys presented here were conducted in the spring of 2021, when the pandemic had been ongoing for just over 1 year.

Teenage friends sitting in a staircase
Photo: Pablo Frisk


The percentage of ninth graders who got drunk before the age of 14 has fallen from about 20 per cent in 2000 to just over 5 per cent in the latest survey. 


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

Back to The Teenage Phrasebook home page