This report presents the alcohol findings from the 2015 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 the past the survey has been completed on paper, but in 2015 half of the sample completed the survey online. Fieldwork was undertaken between September 2015 and January 2016.
Figure 1 Numbers sampled and participated
The overall response rate was 53% based on class and pupil response rate  .
For full details of the methodology please see the accompanying SALSUS 2015 Technical Report.
Prevalence and key trends
- Less than a third of 13 year old pupils (28%) and two-thirds of 15 year olds (66%) have ever had an alcoholic drink.
- Only a small proportion had drunk alcohol in the 7 days prior to completing the survey: 4% of 13 year olds and 17% of 15 year olds.
- After a large decrease in prevalence between 2010 and 2013, drinking in the last week has remained unchanged between 2013 and 2015, with the exception of a small decrease among 15 year olds boys.
- Less than half of 13 year olds (45%) and around two-thirds of 15 year olds (68%) who had ever had alcohol, had been drunk at least once.
- The average age that 15 year olds first had a drink was 13 years and 2 months.
- The most common drinking location among 13 year olds was at their own home and among 15 year olds was at a party with friends.
- Among 13 year olds, less than half (45%) 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 (59%).
- 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, a friend, or 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 (35%) and just over half of 15 year olds (52%) who have ever had a drink, had asked someone else to buy them alcohol in the last 4 weeks.
Attitudes to alcohol use
- Less than half of 13 year olds (40%) thought that it was 'ok' for someone their age to try drinking alcohol, while nearly three-quarters of 15 year olds (73%) thought it was 'ok'. There has been no change between 2013 and 2015 among 13 year olds, and a small decrease among 15 year olds.
- Less than one in ten 13 year olds (9%) thought that it was 'ok' for someone their age to try getting drunk, whereas 38% of 15 year olds thought that it was 'ok'. There has been no change between 2013 and 2015.