Are younger or older Australian school students aged 12-17 years more likely to drink alcohol?

The likelihood of Australian school students aged 12-17 years consuming alcohol increases with age. Those who are younger are more likely to have never consumed alcohol. Older students are more likely to have consumed alcohol in the past year, past month and past week compared to younger students.

In 2014, 53% of Australian students aged 12 years had never consumed alcohol; 19% had consumed alcohol in the past year, 7% in the past month and 4% in the past week. In 2014, 43% of Australian students aged 13 years had never consumed alcohol; 27% had consumed alcohol in the past year, 11% in the past month and 6% in the past week. In 2014, 34% of Australian students aged 14 years had never consumed alcohol; 39% had consumed alcohol in the past year, 17% in the past month and 9% in the past week. In 2014, 26% of Australian students aged 15 years had never consumed alcohol; 52% had consumed alcohol in the past year, 27% in the past month and 14% in the past week. In 2014, 17% of Australian students aged 16 years had never consumed alcohol; 67% had consumed alcohol in the past year, 43% in the past month and 25% in the past week. In 2014, 13% of Australian students aged 17 years had never consumed alcohol; 76% had consumed alcohol in the past year, 54% in the past month and 36% in the past week.

Source: Cancer Council Victoria (2016). Australian secondary school students' use of tobacco, alcohol, and over-the-counter and illicit substances in 2014.

Please note: Percentages do not tally to 100% as drinking categories (past week, past month, & past year) overlap.

The proportion of school students who have ‘never consumed’ alcohol differs from the proportion of ‘abstainers’ among young people in the general population due to the use of different survey measures. In the secondary students’ survey (ASSAD), those who have never consumed alcohol are defined as those who had not had even a sip of an alcoholic drink in their lifetime. In the general population survey (NDSHS), abstainers are those who have never had a full serve of alcohol.

Proportions of school students drinking yearly, monthly, or weekly also differ from proportions of young people in the general population who drink yearly, monthly, or weekly due to differences in survey measures. The ASSAD measure indicates any alcohol use (even one drink) and the proportions overlap. The NDSHS measures indicate usual drinking frequency over the past 12 months and proportions do not overlap.