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14 Nov 2019

Alcohol: Can young people lead the charge?

This week (11th-17th November) marks Alcohol Awareness Week, in which charities and experts are encouraging the general public to think about their drinking and the changes they could make. In September 2018, Secondary and College voters were asked about whether they thought British drinking culture was an embarrassment, while their Primary counterparts considered whether British adults drink too much when compared to other countries around the world. 


Drinking Primary Results Primary results



Drinking Secondary Results Secondary results



Drinking College Result College Results


Comments on these two questions ranged from the slightly defensive - “it’s part of our culture, so we shouldn’t be judged”-  to the self-conscious - “what must other countries think of us?!”. Others also cited the health and safety risks, particularly surrounding teenage drinkers and drink-drivers. So how much has changed since the votes on these questions? Below are a few key alcohol headlines from the last 12 months.  

  • February 2019: Prompted by the rise of “Dry January”, some studies have shown that abstinence from alcohol can, in the case of a group of lab rats, lead to binge drinking later on. However, this effect has yet to be conclusively proven in humans. Nevertheless, the advice is that for those who are more prone to binge drinking, it is better to try abstaining for a couple of days a week for the entire year, rather than going cold turkey for a month after the festive period. January 2020 is likely to bring with it more pledges and more studies to bolster or disprove these theories. 
  • April 2019: Medical advice surrounding alcohol consumption is often mixed, but one fairly conclusive assertion from medical journal The Lancet is that “light to moderate drinking” does not keep drinkers safer from strokes than those who drink heavily. The safest approach, it seems, is not to drink at all. 
  • May 2019: According to the Global Drugs Survey 2019, British respondents reported being drunk an average of 51 times per year, compared to an average of 33 times for all other countries in the survey. Evidently, the question posed to Primary pupils is still pretty pertinent. 
  • June 2019: Following the introduction of a minimum price for alcohol in Scotland in May 2018, research indicated that less alcohol was purchased there in the 12 months since MUP (Minimum Unit Pricing) began than in any other year since the 1990s. 
  • July 2019: Over the summer, it was reported that hotel bosses in popular resorts had been advised not to assign British holidaymakers rooms with balconies, following a string of incidents the previous year in which several people fell to their death. 
  • October 2019: Plans have been unveiled to implement a minimum alcohol price in Wales by March 2020. This would mean bars and shops could only sell alcohol for a minimum of 50p per unit. These plans will be finalised later this month pending approval from the Welsh Assembly.

All of these news stories indicate that positive steps are being taken towards tackling drinking harm. However, these seem to be predominantly carried out by adults, for adults. Although many young people are still affected by drink (a survey published in August showed that as many as 1 in 4 15-year olds were frequent drinkers, with another 21% of these having consumed over the recommended 14 units), it has been widely reported that consumption of alcohol amongst young people has reduced significantly over the past few years. 

With this in mind, surely the older generations of drinkers could learn from the actions of young people today? There is so much talk about the ever-growing generational divide today, without many suggestions of how it could be used for good; perhaps alcohol presents a prime opportunity. The results of these questions should therefore be used as motivation for researchers and the public, highlighting that although there is room for improvement across all groups when it comes to drinking, perhaps young people can - or even should - lead the charge.  

For more help and advice on alcohol dependency for yourself or someone else, visit the following links: 

  • Alcohol Change UK: the new charity formed from the merger of Alcohol Research UK and Alcohol Concern. They offer help & support, facts & figures and showcase current research.
  • Drinkaware: their website provides advice if you are concerned about your own drinking, someone else’s or underage drinking. They also have tips on how to stay safe and look after your mental health
  • One You: the NHS have a range of apps to help promote wellbeing amongst the general public. This includes their Drink Free Days app, which can help motivate you to reduce your alcohol intake by showing how your weekly units soon add up. 
  • Rehab 4 Addiction: is a free drug and alcohol addiction helpline to help those affected by addiction. You can contact them by phone, email, or using the form on their website.



Georgie is the Schools Relationship Officer at VotesforSchools, and she creates the weekly content for Colleges and Prisons. Her blog series, Power to the Pupils, will take a retrospective look at how the results of the debates by young people in the classroom are coming to fruition – or not, as the case may be. Please email her at georgie@votesforschools.com if you have any questions or comments about this post or future ones.


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