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25th July 2014

Parents ‘in the dark’ on decline in underage drinking

Portman Group research reveals parents’ lack of awareness of downturn in alcohol consumption by 11-15 year olds

More than nine out of 10 (96%) parents in England are unaware of the decline in alcohol consumption among 11-15 year-olds in the past 10 years, according to research published today by the Portman Group.

The results of the polling, carried out by YouGov earlier this month, follows figures released today by the Health & Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), which show that the proportion of 11-15 year olds having ever tried alcohol has fallen by 34% since 2004, and the number who think it is ‘okay’ to drink alcohol once a week has dropped by 33%.

In the Portman/YouGov poll of more than 1,000 parents, 96% of them were unaware of this sustained decline. However, when informed of the trend and asked what they thought were the reasons for it, more than half (57%) said pubs and shops had become stricter against underage drinking.

Other reasons cited by parents included the rise of social media and new technologies providing other things for young people to do (25%); increasing diversity in the UK among ethnic groups who are forbidden from drinking alcohol (20%); increased use of alcohol labels and public health messaging, information and education (15%) and young people are rebelling against their parents’ generation, which had a more liberal approach to drinking alcohol (12%).

According to government statistics, 75% of 11-15 year olds get alcohol from family or friends. 19% obtain alcohol from strangers and only 5% cite pubs or shops. Parents’ perceptions about where children source alcohol from were broadly in line with this.

Portman Group chief executive Henry Ashworth said, “Our research, held against the sustained downward trend in these government figures, highlights the huge gap between the perception of parents and the reality of a significant cultural shift in underage drinking. We now need to improve our understanding of why this positive culture change is taking place, and what is fuelling the misunderstanding of parents.

“We’re particularly pleased to see shops and pubs are recognised by parents as not being sources of alcohol for young people, showing the success of industry schemes such as Challenge 25 and Challenge 21 in preventing drinks sales to minors.”

For more information please contact:
Ros Shiel
07841 694137 /

Notes to editors
According to the Portman Group/YouGov poll, 79% of parents think 11-15 year olds are most likely to obtain alcohol from family (28%) or friends (51%). Only 12% cited shops (10%) or pubs (2%) as the place where they were most likely to obtain alcohol.

The Portman Group is the responsibility body for the alcohol industry. It is funded by its nine member companies: AB InBev UK; Bacardi Brown-Forman Brands UK; SHS Drinks (formerly Beverage Brands UK); Carlsberg UK; Diageo GB; Heineken UK; Molson Coors Brewing Company UK; Pernod Ricard UK; and SAB Miller

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,290 adults, of which 1,817 are from England. 1,064 respondents surveyed were parents in England. Fieldwork was undertaken between 4th – 7th July 2014. The survey was carried out online. The figures from the 2,290 respondents have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).