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Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (SALSUS): Alcohol Report 2015


1 Introduction and background

This report presents the alcohol findings from the 2015 wave of the Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey. The research was commissioned by the Scottish Government and carried out by Ipsos MORI Scotland.

Survey background

The Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (SALSUS) is a continuation of a long established series of national surveys on smoking, drinking and drug use. These were carried out jointly in Scotland and England between 1982 and 2000, to provide a national picture of young peoples' smoking (from 1982), drinking (from 1990), and drug use (from 1998) within the context of other lifestyle, health and social factors. Since 2002, Scotland has developed its own, more tailored survey known as SALSUS.

Survey purpose

SALSUS measures progress towards Scottish Government targets for smoking and drug use, and is used to inform the Scottish Government priority of addressing harmful drinking among young people.

The survey series also provides local prevalence rates for smoking, drinking and drug use across Alcohol and Drug Partnerships (ADPs), local authorities and NHS Boards. SALSUS data are used in a number of the ADP national core indicators, which allows the ADPs to monitor their progress against a common set of outcomes. ADPs and their community planning partners make extensive use of SALSUS data in local needs assessments and in developing their strategic priorities.

Policy background

Scotland's unhealthy relationship with alcohol is well-documented. In response, successive Scottish Governments have introduced a range of measures to try to tackle the problem, outlined in Figure 1.1. The current national alcohol strategy is Changing Scotland's Relationship with Alcohol: A Framework for Action. A refresh of the Framework will be published in 2016.

Figure 1.1 Scottish alcohol policy timeline (2002-2016)

Figure 1.1 Scottish alcohol policy timeline (2002-2016)

N.B. At the time of writing, the Alcohol Minimum Pricing (Scotland) Act has not yet been implemented, and some parts of the Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act have also not yet been implemented.

Changing Scotland's Relationship with Alcohol: A Framework for Action

Changing Scotland's Relationship with Alcohol: A Framework for Action aims to tackle alcohol misuse in Scotland and addresses current, ongoing and new commitments.

The framework identifies the need for action in four areas:

1. reduced alcohol consumption

2. supporting families and communities

3. positive public attitudes and positive choices

4. improved treatment and support.

Within these areas there are actions specifically relating to young people including: supporting third sector organisations to provide youth work and/or diversionary opportunities; improved substance misuse education in schools including Choices for Life; improved identification of, and support for, children affected by parental substance misuse; guidance for parents and carers about young people and alcohol; a review of how test purchasing has been implemented; and work with Young Scot to heighten the use and recognition of the Young Scot card as proof of age.

Key legislation

Current key policies relating to alcohol include: the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005, the Alcohol etc. (Scotland) Act 2010, the Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Act 2012 and the Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015. Figure 1.2, outlines the key points from each that are relevant to young people.

Figure 1.2 key legislative measure affecting young people

Figure 1.2 key legislative measure affecting young people

Further information about policy relating to alcohol use is available at:

NHS Health Scotland: http://www.healthscotland.com/topics/health/alcohol/index.aspx


SALSUS is a self-completion survey administered by teachers in a mixed ability class, under exam conditions. In the past the survey has been completed on paper, but for the first time, in the 2015 wave, half of the sample completed the survey online[2].

A random, nationally representative sample of S2 and S4 pupils in Scottish schools was drawn with classes as the primary sampling unit. All local authority and independent schools in Scotland were eligible for inclusion in the sample, with the exception of special schools.

Fieldwork was completed between September 2015 and January 2016. A total of 13,607 S2 and 11,697 S4 pupils responded.

Throughout the report pupils in S2 are referred to as '13 year olds' and S4 pupils are referred to as '15 year olds' for ease. It should be borne in mind that some pupils within these categories may be slightly older or younger.

Some pupils did not answer each question. Where answers are missing, these have been excluded from the analysis and so charts and tables that describe the same population may have varying bases. When differences between estimates are specifically commented on in the report, these differences are statistically significant to the level of 0.05.

Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

For full details of the methodology, please see the SALSUS 2015 Technical Report[3].

Finally, it is important to note, that while there are associations between many of the behaviours explored in this report, conclusions about causality cannot be drawn.

Changes to the questionnaire

Eighteen drinking questions were removed from the survey in 2015. These were mainly in relation to quantifying intake of different types of alcohol. For detail on alcohol question changes see Appendix A. For further details on other question changes and survey methodology see the SALSUS 2015 Technical Report and full 2015 Questionnaire[4].