London, Sep 28 (PTI) There has been a sharp decline in youth drinking across all age groups over the last 15 years, a study conducted in the UK has found. Also Read - British PM Boris Johnson Tests Positive For COVID-19

Researchers at the University of Sheffield in the UK found that young people are now less likely to drink and, if they do drink, they start doing so later, drink less often and consume smaller amounts. Also Read - Amid Coronavirus Outbreak, Centre Prohibits Entry of Passengers From Europe, Turkey From March 18 to 31

The study analysed data from the 1988-2016 Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use amongst Young People in England surveys and the 2001-2016 Health Surveys for England. Also Read - Rishi Sunak, Britain's First Indian-origin Finance Minister, Set to Finally Scrap Unpopular 'Tampon Tax'

Both are nationally-representative surveys of young people in England and cover respondents aged between eight and 24.

The finding shows that in 2002, 61 per cent of 11-15 year-olds had previously consumed a full alcoholic drink but this dropped to 44 per cent by 2016.

For 8-12 year-olds, this fell from 25 per cent to just four per cent, researchers said.

The proportion of 16-17 year-olds who reported drinking alcohol over the past 12 months fell from 88 per cent in 2001 to 65 per cent in 2016, while over the same time period, the proportion of 16-24 year-old drinkers fell from 90 per cent to 78 per cent, they said.

Those young people who do drink are starting drinking up to a year later.

Between 2002 and 2016, the average age at which 16-17 year-olds reported having their first alcoholic drink increased from 13.7 to 14.8, while for 11-15 year-olds it increased from 11.6 to 12.3.

The research showed there were also big falls in how often and how much young people drink.

Among those who were drinkers, the percentage of 16-24 year-olds who drank in the last week fell from 76 per cent to 60 per cent between 2002 and 2016, while for 11-15 year-olds it fell from 35 per cent to 19 per cent.

The proportion of 16-17 year-olds who exceeded binge drinking thresholds in the last week fell from 30 per cent in 2002 to six per cent in 2016, researchers said.

“It may be that increases in internet use and online gaming are changing the way young people spend their leisure time,” said Melissa Oldham from the University of Sheffield’s Alcohol Research Group.

“Economic factors may also play a role, as concern about increasing university tuition fees and the cost of housing means young people feel they have less disposable income to spend on alcohol,” Oldham said.

As well as a decline in alcohol use, smoking and illicit drug use has also decreased amongst 11-15 year-olds.

The proportion of people smoking fell from 38 per cent in 2002 to 17 per cent in 2016 and the proportion of people using cannabis fell from 17 per cent in 2002 to 11 per cent in 2016.

“These changes matter for public health today as young people suffer injuries, poor mental health and road traffic accidents when intoxicated,” John Holmes from the University of Sheffield.

“If this generation also drinks less in later adulthood, we may see big reductions in 20 or 30 years in the diseases caused by alcohol,” Holmes said.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.