Do you ever wonder what’s really going on in Australia when it comes to alcohol & other drugs?
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has released its newest report on Alcohol & Other Drug use across Australia for 2019, the National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS).
In this survey, 22,274 Australians gave information on their drug use patterns, attitudes and behaviours. The AIHW has been reporting on Australia’s Alcohol & Other Drug use every 3 years since 1993. The information we have received is exciting as it shows that young people are continuing to make great choices in regards to alcohol and other drugs.
It is worth noting that in the 2019 survey, 12- and 13-year-olds were no longer surveyed and included in the data. So, although it may appear that numbers have dramatically decreased or increased in certain areas, many of the changes are due to the missing input from 12- and 13-year-olds. We actually see this as a really encouraging development.
In 2016, the NDSHS reported that 93.6% of 12- to 15-year-olds were abstaining from alcohol. We can assume that since 12- and 13-year-olds are no longer included in the survey this year, the number of 12- and 13-year-olds consuming alcohol and partaking in other drugs is negligible. This is excellent news!
Young People & Alcohol
Encounter Youth wrote about the 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey and we were thrilled to see that the number of young people that were choosing to abstain from alcohol, drink less, give up alcohol or wait longer for their first drink, had increased from previous years.
The 2019 survey has shown similar trends. The average age a person drank their first full serve of alcohol increased from 16.1 in 2016 to 16.3 in 2019 (up almost 2 full years since 2001). The proportion of people aged 14-17 who have never consumed a full serve of alcohol in their lifetime was 66.2% in 2019. This has increased dramatically since 2001 when that figure was 27.9%
When it comes to 14- to 17-year-olds reducing their alcohol consumption, the top 3 reasons were: social reasons (31.3%), lifestyle reasons (30.5%) and health reasons (25.8%). In 2016, the top 3 reasons were: social reasons (39.7%), taste/enjoyment (28.7%) and lifestyle reasons (22.7%). It would seem that young people are becoming more aware of the health impacts that alcohol can have on their bodies. This is good news and it shows that young people are intrinsically motivated to make great choices.
A very interesting change was in how the age group was supplied both their first alcoholic drink and how they received their usual supply of alcohol. Since 2010, the majority of 14- to 17-year-olds were receiving their first drink and their usual supply of alcohol from a friend or acquaintance (42.4% and 49.5% respectively). In 2019, we’re now seeing parents as the main source of supply for the majority of 14- to 17-year-olds.
In 2019, 43.8% of young people received their first drink from a parent compared to 30.3% in 2010. And 41.6% of young people received their usual supply of alcohol from a parent in 2019, compared to 25% in 2010.
One possible reason for this shift could be that parents believe that if they introduce or give alcohol to their young person in a controlled setting, it will teach them to drink responsibly. Unfortunately, we know from research that early introduction to alcohol can actually increase the risk for young people1.
We would encourage parents to check out Encounter Youth’s Parent Resources for further information on how to best support their young person around alcohol and other drugs.
Young People & Other Drugs
Other drugs include illicit drugs as well as pharmaceuticals and tobacco. In the media and through various sources, it can often seem that these drugs are a major problem among young people. From the evidence presented in the 2019 NDSHS, we see that, in reality, very few young people are choosing to use these drugs.
When it comes to illicit drug use in 2019, the vast majority of young people have never used an illicit drug. As seen in the infographic, 90.1% of 14- to 17-year-olds had never used cannabis and over 98% had never used other illicit drugs of concern. The number of 14- to 17–year–olds choosing not to use these illicit drugs has seen a significant increase since 2001, and we can expect in the coming years that these numbers will stay consistent and may even rise. This evidence breaks down the myth that large numbers of young people are involved with illicit drugs.
In regards to tobacco, 96.6% of 14- to 17–year–olds had never smoked in 2019 (compared to 81.7% in 2001). The AIHW attributed an overall decline in smoking among the wider Australian population to younger generations no longer taking up smoking. The negative effects of cigarettes are now well known and through various outlets and sources, Australians are well educated on the potential dangers of choosing to smoke tobacco. We’re now seeing the impact of this among the younger generations as they choose to not smoke.
National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2019
In 2019, we’re once again seeing young people making great choices in regards to Alcohol & Other Drugs. Over the past 18 years, we have seen significant positive changes in the behaviours of young people towards alcohol and other drugs, and that’s really encouraging. Through effective education, encouragement and support, we know that for years to come, the majority of young people will continue to make great choices.
As part of our Encounter Youth Education™ program, we continue to use the information from sources like the National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2019 to encourage students that the majority of young people make great decisions around alcohol and other drugs.