National Drug Strategy
National Drug Strategy

Australian secondary school students' use of tobacco, alcohol, and over-the-counter and illicit substances in 2011

4.10 Has the drinking behaviour of secondary students changed over time?

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In this section changes in the prevalence of alcohol consumption among younger (12- to 15-year-olds) and older (16- to 17-year-olds) students are examined. The key indicators of alcohol involvement examined are: lifetime use, use in the past month, use in the past seven days (current drinking) and consumption of more than four drinks on one occasion in the past seven days among all students and among current drinkers.

Figure 4.2 shows the proportion of all 12- to 15-year-olds in each survey year that consumed an alcoholic drink in the week prior to the survey, and the proportion drinking more than four drinks on a single occasion in the past week. Figure 4.3 shows the results for 16- and 17-year-olds. The proportions shown in the figures are not adjusted for age.

Figure 4.2: Proportion of 12- to 15-year-olds drinking in the seven days before the survey (current drinkers) and the proportion drinking more than four drinks on a single occasion in the past seven days, Australia, 1984-2011


Line graph showing the proportion of 12- to 15-year-olds drinking in the seven days before the survey (current drinkers) and the proportion drinking more than four drinks on a single occasion in the past seven days, Australia, 1984-2011. Description of Figure 4.2

* Students who have consumed alcohol at least once in the past seven days are defined as current drinkers. Given that the 2009 NHMRC Australian drinking guidelines recommend that abstaining from alcohol consumption is the safest option for young people under the age of 18 years – the proportion of current drinkers reflects the proportion of students who do not adhere to this guideline.

# Those that consumed more than four drinks on one occasion were considered to be putting themselves at risk of short-term harm according to the 2009 NHMRC drinking guidelines for adults.

Among 12- to 15-year-olds, the prevalence of current drinking declined during the 1980s, then increased in the 1990s, peaking in 2002. Figure 4.2 suggests that among 12- to 15-year-olds, the prevalence of current drinking began to decrease after 2002 and this decrease has continued into 2011. The proportion of students who consumed more than four drinks on a single occasion in the past seven days is shown in the lower part of the figure for each survey year. There was little change in the proportions drinking at this level over the survey period, although there has been a slight decrease between 2002 and 2011. Top of page

Figure 4.3: Proportion of 16- to 17-year-olds drinking in the seven days before the survey (current drinkers) and the proportion drinking more than 4 drinks on a single occasion in the past week, Australia, 1984-2011


Proportion of 16- to 17-year-olds drinking in the seven days before the survey (current drinkers) and the proportion drinking more than 4 drinks on a single occasion in the past week, Australia, 1984-2011. Description of Figure 4.3

* Students who have consumed alcohol at least once in the past seven days are defined as current drinkers. Given that the 2009 NHMRC Australian drinking guidelines recommend that abstaining from alcohol consumption is the safest option for young people under the age of 18 years – the proportion of current drinkers reflects the proportion of students who do not adhere to this guideline.

# Those that consumed more than four drinks on one occasion were considered to be putting themselves at risk of short-term harm according to the 2009 NHMRC drinking guidelines for adults.

Among 16- and 17-year-olds, the proportion of students who were current drinkers decreased in the late 1980s, and then increased throughout the mid to late 1990s (Figure 4.3). The proportion of 16- and 17-year-olds who were current drinkers decreased slightly between 1999 and 2002 and this decrease has continued into 2011. Among 16- and 17-year-olds, there was an increase in the proportion of students who reported to drink more than four drinks on at least one of the preceding seven days between 1990 and 1999. Stabilisation was observed between 1999 and 2005, followed by a slight decrease between 2005 and 2008 and between 2008 and 2011.Top of page

Table 4.14 shows the proportion of 12- to 15-year-olds, 16- to 17-year-olds and 12- to 17-year-olds who had consumed alcohol in their lifetime, in the past month and the past seven days, as well as the proportion of students in these age groups who consumed more than four drinks on a single occasion in the past week in 2005, 2008 and 2011.

Table 4.14: Proportion of students using alcohol in their lifetime, in the past month, in the previous seven days (current drinkers) and proportion of all students and current drinkers who consumed more than four drinks on a single occasion in the past seven days in 2005, 2008 and 2011, Australia^

12 to 15 years

Recency period - Lifetime
2005
(%)
2008
(%)
2011
(%)
Males
83.4**
78.6**
70.0
Females
81.4**
78.2**
65.5
Total
82.4**
78.4**
67.8

16 to 17 years

Recency period - Lifetime
2005
(%)
2008
(%)
2011
(%)
Males
95.1**
91.1
88.2
Females
94.2**
92.3
90.3
Total
94.6**
91.7
89.3

Total

Recency period - Lifetime
2005
(%)
2008
(%)
2011
(%)
Males
86.5**
82.0**
75.2
Females
85.0**
82.3**
72.8
Total
85.7**
82.1**
74.0

12 to 15 years

Recency period – Past month
2005
(%)
2008
(%)
2011
(%)
Males
35.6**
28.9**
20.6
Females
33.0**
27.6**
18.4
Total
34.4**
28.2**
19.5

16 to 17 years

Recency period – Past month
2005
(%)
2008
(%)
2011
(%)
Males
70.0**
61.8**
52.2
Females
33.0**
27.5**
18.4
Total
68.1**
60.4**
52.7

Total

Recency period – Past month
2005
(%)
2008
(%)
2011
(%)
Males
44.6**
37.7**
29.6
Females
42.3**
36.4**
28.7
Total
43.4**
37.1**
29.1
Top of page

12 to 15 years

Recency period – Current drinkers (consumed alcohol in past seven days)
2005
(%)
2008
(%)
2011
(%)
Males
23.4**
17.1**
12.2
Females
20.0**
16.1**
10.2
Total
21.8**
16.6**
11.2

16 to 17 years

Recency period – Current drinkers (consumed alcohol in past seven days)
2005
(%)
2008
(%)
2011
(%)
Males
50.1**
41.4**
34.0
Females
44.8**
35.3
31.0
Total
47.4**
38.3**
32.5

Total

Recency period – Current drinkers (consumed alcohol in past seven days)
2005
(%)
2008
(%)
2011
(%)
Males
30.3**
23.6**
18.4
Females
26.9**
21.6**
16.4
Total
28.6**
22.6**
17.4

12 to 15 years

Recency period – Consumed more than four drinks on one occasion in the past seven days – All students
2005
(%)
2008
(%)
2011
(%)
Males
6.5**
4.1
3.2
Females
4.6**
3.5**
2.1
Total
5.6**
3.8**
2.7

16 to 17 years

Recency period – Consumed more than four drinks on one occasion in the past seven days – All students
2005
(%)
2008
(%)
2011
(%)
Males
28.0**
21.1
17.9
Females
18.7**
14.6
13.3
Total
23.3**
17.8
15.6

Total

Recency period – Consumed more than four drinks on one occasion in the past seven days – All students
2005
(%)
2008
(%)
2011
(%)
Males
12.1**
8.6
7.4
Females
8.5**
6.6
5.4
Total
10.3**
7.7
6.4
Top of page

12 to 15 years

Recency period – Consumed more than four drinks on one occasion in the past seven days – Current drinkers
2005
(%)
2008
(%)
2011
(%)
Males
27.9
24.1
26.6
Females
23.1
21.6
20.4
Total
25.7
22.9
23.8

16 to 17 years

Recency period – Consumed more than four drinks on one occasion in the past seven days – Current drinkers
2005
(%)
2008
(%)
2011
(%)
Males
56.4
51.1
53.1
Females
41.8
41.6
43.0
Total
49.4
46.6
48.2

Total

Recency period – Consumed more than four drinks on one occasion in the past seven days – Current drinkers
2005
(%)
2008
(%)
011
(%)
Males
40.1
36.8
40.5
Females
31.8
30.9
33.1
Total
36.2
34.0
37.0

** Significantly different from 2011 at p <0.01.
^ As of 2009, NHMRC drinking guidelines recommend that abstaining from alcohol consumption is the safest option for young people under the age of 18 years. Given this recommendation, the proportion of students who have reported to have ever had an alcoholic drink in their lifetime or to have consumed alcohol in any of the recency periods listed above reflects the proportions of students who do not adhere to this guideline.

For 12- to 15-year-olds, the proportions of all students and both males and females who consumed alcohol in their lifetime, in the past month and past week in 2011 were significantly lower than in 2008 and 2005 (p<0.01). The proportion of female 12- to 15-year-olds who consumed more than four drinks on a single occasion in 2011 was significantly lower than in 2008 and 2005 (p<0.01). The proportion of male 12- to 15-year-olds consuming alcohol at this level in 2011 was significantly lower than the proportion found in 2005 (p<0.01), but not in 2008. Among younger students who were current drinkers, the proportion who had drank more than four drinks on a single occasion in 2011 was not significantly different from the proportions found in 2008 and 2005.

Among 16- and 17-year-olds, the proportion of male students consuming alcohol in the past month and past week in 2011 was significantly lower than the proportions found in 2008 and 2005 (p<0.01). Among same aged female students, alcohol consumption in the past month and past week in 2011 was significantly lower than the proportions found in 2005 (p<0.01), but the change between 2008 and 2011 was not statistically significant.

While the proportion of all 16- and 17-year-olds who had consumed more than four drinks on one occasion in the week before the survey in 2011 was significantly lower than the proportions found in 2005 (p<0.01), there was no change in the proportion who had consumed alcohol at this level between 2008 and 2011. Additionally, there was no significant change in the proportion of current drinkers who had consumed alcohol at this level between 2005 and 2011 or between 2008 and 2011.

Among 12- to 17-year-olds, the proportion of students drinking in their lifetime, in the past month and in the past week in 2011 were significantly lower than the proportions found in 2008 and 2005. The proportion of students who drank more than four drinks on a single occasion in the past week in 2011 was significantly lower than the proportions found in 2005, but not in 2008. There was no significant change in the proportion of current drinkers who had consumed alcohol at this level between 2011, 2008 and 2005.

4.10.1 Changes in the type of alcohol consumed between 2005 and 2011

Current drinkers were asked what alcoholic drink they usually have. Changes in the proportion of current drinkers’ usual drink types between 2005 and 2011 were examined. Only data from current drinkers who indicated that they consumed one type of drink were included in this analysis (in 2005 80.7% of all current drinkers provided a single response to this question, in 2008 - 73.8% and in 2011 - 73.9%). Table 4.15 shows the drink types consumed by current drinkers in 2005, 2008 and 2011. Top of page

Table 4.15: Most commonly consumed drink types in 2005, 2008 and 2011 among male and female current drinkers^ aged 12 to 15 years and 16 to 17 years (only data from students who indicated that they consumed one type of drink included in analysis), Australia


12 to 15 years

Males
2005
(%)
2008
(%)
2011
(%)
Spirits
39.2**
35.4**
21.4
Beer (ordinary)
29.3
29.3
23.5
Premixed spirits
11.7**
16.1**
32.8
Low alcohol beer
6.1
3.9
5.4
Wine
7.2
7.0
8.6
Champagne or sparkling wine
1.2
1.1
1.3
Alcoholic sodas
0.7
1.7
1.8
Liqueurs
2.2
2.7
1.7
Alcoholic cider
1.0
1.3
1.1
Other
1.4
1.4
2.4

16 to 17 years

Males
2005
(%)
2008
(%)
2011
(%)
Spirits
38.8**
35.0**
25.9
Beer (ordinary)
38.5
40.6
35.1
Premixed spirits
15.0**
15.7**
27.1
Low alcohol beer
0.8
1.5
2.0
Wine
3.0
3.4
4.9
Champagne or sparkling wine
0.7**
0.2
0.0
Alcoholic sodas
0.4
0.1
0.8
Liqueurs
1.4
1.5
0.6
Alcoholic cider
0.9**
0.9
2.9
Other
0.5
1.0
0.7

12 to 17 years

Males
2005
(%)
2008
(%)
2011
(%)
Spirits
39.1**
35.2**
23.8**
Beer (ordinary)
33.3
34.7**
29.7
Premixed spirits
13.2**
15.9**
29.8
Low alcohol beer
3.8
2.8
3.6
Wine
5.4
5.3
6.6
Champagne or sparkling wine
1.0
0.7
0.6
Alcoholic sodas
0.6
0.9
1.2
Liqueurs
1.9
2.1
1.1
Alcoholic cider
1.0
1.1
2.1
Other
1.0
1.2
1.5
Top of page

12 to 15 years

Females
2005
(%)
2008
(%)
2011
(%)
Spirits
32.4
25.4
32.9
Beer (ordinary)
6.8
6.5
5.5
Premixed spirits
41.5
47.2**
37.7
Low alcohol beer
1.4
2.3
3.2
Wine
6.3
7.0
8.0
Champagne or sparkling wine
2.1**
4.2
4.9
Alcoholic sodas
1.8
1.4
2.7
Liqueurs
4.5
3.7
3.3
Alcoholic cider
0.9
0.9
1.0
Other
2.4
1.4
0.9

16 to 17 years

Females
2005
(%)
2008
(%)
011
(%)
Spirits
27.3
26.8
28.4
Beer (ordinary)
5.4
3.6
2.9
Premixed spirits
53.1
53.9
49.2
Low alcohol beer
0.6
0.4
0.4
Wine
3.9**
5.4
7.8
Champagne or sparkling wine
3.1
3.3
2.6
Alcoholic sodas
0.4**
0.6**
3.4
Liqueurs
4.7
5.1
2.7
Alcoholic cider
0.3**
0.4**
1.9
Other
1.2
0.7
0.7

12 to 17 years

Females
2005
(%)
2008
(%)
2011
(%)
Spirits
30.0
26.0
30.3
Beer (ordinary)
6.1
5.1
4.0
Premixed spirits
46.9
50.4**
44.4
Low alcohol beer
1.0
1.4
1.6
Wine
5.2**
6.2
7.9
Champagne or sparkling wine
2.6
3.8
3.6
Alcoholic sodas
1.1**
1.0**
3.1
Liqueurs
4.6
4.3
2.9
Alcoholic cider
0.6
0.7
1.5
Other
1.8
1.1
0.8

** Significantly different from 2011 at p <0.01;
^ Current drinkers: students who drank on any of the past seven days.

Among males in both age groups, the proportion of students consuming spirits in 2011 was significantly lower than the proportions found in 2008 and 2005 (p<0.01), whereas the proportion of males consuming premixed spirits in 2011 was significantly higher than the proportions found in 2008 and 2005 (p<0.01).

There was a significant decrease in the proportion of younger female current drinkers drinking premixed spirits between 2008 and 2011 (p<0.01), although this decrease was not observed among older female current drinkers.

The proportion of 12- to 17-year-old current drinkers who reported to consume drink types other than beer, spirits or premixed spirits was low in all three survey years. There was a slight increase in the proportion of older males and females who consumed alcoholic cider between 2005 and 2011 (p<0.01). Additionally, among females in the older age group, the proportion consuming alcoholic sodas in 2011 was higher than the proportions found in 2008 and 2005 (p<0.01).

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