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

Among Australian school students aged 12-17 years, the likelihood of 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.

46% of Australian students aged 12 years have never consumed alcohol; 21% have consumed alcohol in the past year, 9% in the past month and 5% in the past week. 38% of Australian students aged 13 years have never consumed alcohol; 32% have consumed alcohol in the past year, 14% in the past month and 8% in the past week. 26% of Australian students aged 14 years have never consumed alcohol; 46% have consumed alcohol in the past year, 22% in the past month and 12% in the past week. 19% of Australian students aged 15 years have never consumed alcohol; 60% have consumed alcohol in the past year, 34% in the past month and 20% in the past week. 12% of Australian students aged 16 years have never consumed alcohol; 74% have consumed alcohol in the past year, 48% in the past month and 29% in the past week. 9% of Australian students aged 17 years have never consumed alcohol; 81% have consumed alcohol in the past year, 59% in the past month and 37% in the past week.

Source: Cancer Council Victoria (2012). Australian secondary school students' use of tobacco, alcohol, and over-the-counter and illicit substances in 2011.

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

The proportion of school students who have consumed alcohol differs from the proportion of young people in the general population who have consumed alcohol (see FAQ Are younger or older Australians aged 12-17 years more likely to drink alcohol?). This is due to the use of different survey measures. The school students’ survey (ASSAD) presents data on any alcohol use (even one drink), and the weekly/monthly/yearly categories are not mutually exclusive. By contrast, the general population survey (NDSHS) presents data on usual drinking frequency during the past 12 months, and the categories are mutually exclusive.

In addition, the proportion of school students who have ‘never consumed’ alcohol differs from the proportion of ‘abstainers’ among young people in the general population. In the school students’ survey (ASSAD), those who have never consumed alcohol are determined by the question: “Have you ever had even a part of an alcoholic drink (including a few sips)?”.  By contrast, in the general population survey (NDSHS), abstainers are determined by the questions: “Have you ever tried alcohol?”, “Have you ever had a full serve of alcohol?” and “Have you had an alcohol drink of any kind in the last 12 months?”.