This report presents the alcohol findings from the 2018 wave of the Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (SALSUS). The research was commissioned by the Scottish Government and carried out by Ipsos MORI Scotland.
Survey background and purpose
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) behaviours within the context of other lifestyle, health and social factors. Since 2002, Scotland has developed its own, more tailored survey, known as SALSUS.
About the survey
SALSUS is a self-completion survey administered by teachers in a mixed ability class, under exam conditions. In 2018, schools were encouraged to administer the survey online (but could administer it on paper if that was more feasible). Fieldwork was undertaken between September 2018 and April 2019.
Figure 1 Numbers sampled and participated
The overall response rate was 52% based on class and pupil response rate.
For full details of the methodology please see the accompanying SALSUS 2018 Technical Report.
Prevalence and key trends
Just over a third of 13 year old pupils (36%) and 71% of 15 year olds have ever had an alcoholic drink.
Only a small proportion had drunk alcohol in the 7 days prior to completing the survey: 6% of 13 year olds and 20% of 15 year olds.
Between 2015 and 2018, there has been an increase in the proportion of boys who had drunk in the last week: from 4% to 7% among 13 year olds and from 16% to 20% among 15 year olds. There was also an increase among 13 year old girls, from 4% in 2015 to 6% in 2018. Among 15 year old girls there has been no statistically significant change.
Just over half of 13 year olds (53%) and around two-thirds of 15 year olds (70%) who had ever had alcohol, had been drunk at least once.
The mean age that 15 year olds first had a drink was 13.3 years.
The most common drinking location among both 13 and 15 year olds was at their own home.
Among 13 year olds, around half (52%) of those who had ever had a drink had experienced one (or more) negative effect as a result of drinking alcohol in the last year, compared with over half of 15 year olds (63%).
Among both age groups, the most common negative consequence was doing something they regretted or vomiting.
Source and availability
Among both age groups, pupils were most likely to get alcohol from their home, from a friend or from a relative. Direct purchase of alcohol from a business was rare.
The majority of pupils, who have ever had a drink, have never tried to purchase alcohol from either a 'shop, supermarket or off-licence', or a 'pub, bar or club'.
Just over a third of 13 year olds (33%) and just over half of 15 year olds (51%) who have ever had a drink, had asked someone else to buy them alcohol in the last 4 weeks.
Attitudes to alcohol use
Just over half of 13 year olds (51%) thought that it was 'ok' for someone their age to try drinking alcohol, while over three-quarters of 15 year olds (79%) thought it was 'ok'.
16% of 13 year olds and 49% of 15 year olds thought that it was 'ok' for someone their age to try getting drunk. This has increased among both age groups since 2015: 9% of 13 year olds thought it was 'ok' to try getting drunk in 2015, compared with 16% in 2018 and 38% of 15 year olds thought this in 2015, compared with 49% in 2018.