The Drinkaware Monitor - an IPOS survey of young people and their parents’ drinking attitudes and behaviours - found that more than four in ten 10-17 year olds who say they drink do so to help cheer themselves up, feel less anxious or depressed, or forget about their problems. Two fifths of young people who drink for these reasons drink at least once a week, which is more than twice the national average (19%) for their age.
The report said there has been an ‘encouraging downward trend’ in underage drinking in the UK in recent years with the number of 11-15 year olds who have drunk a whole alcoholic drink at least once dropping to 38% in 2014 from 61% in 2003.
Despite this, The Drinkaware Monitor shows that almost two thirds (64%) of young people with 'low mental wellbeing' have had an alcoholic drink, compared with 26% of those with 'high mental wellbeing'.
Elaine Hindal, chief executive of alcohol education charity Drinkaware, said: “Our research shows that some young people are drinking to cope with emotional problems including anxiety or depression, feelings which can be more difficult to deal with during the holiday season.
“At this time of year, when alcohol is more prevalent young people may feel more pressure to drink. Many of us think our children hardly listen to a word we say, but we want to remind parents that they are actually the main source of information about alcohol for their children. It’s never too early to talk to your children about the risks of underage drinking which is why we are encouraging parents to have the ‘alcohol chat’ and to remind young people that they will not be alone if they choose not to drink.”
Lucie Russell, director of Campaigns and Media at UK charity YoungMinds, added: “This report shows that young people who are struggling may be more likely to drink alcohol than those who are feeling contented and happy. With the festive season approaching it is important that we acknowledge that for some young people this can be an emotionally difficult time of year. It can bring on feelings of isolation and loneliness as well as social pressure to conform, party and have a drink or two."