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Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use among Young People in England

Due to a lack of external sponsorship funding, the HSCIC regrets that there will not be a 2015 survey.

For the next survey in 2016, the HSCIC is piloting a new methodology that will generate a significantly larger sample size than previous surveys. This will enable the inclusion of the in-depth questions on both smoking and drinking and drug use within the same survey year, maintaining the survey's subject matter coverage.

What is this survey?

Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use among Young People in England up until 2014 was an annual survey carried out by pupils in years 7 - 11 in participating schools across England to provide national estimates and information on the smoking, drinking and drug use behaviours of young people aged 11 - 15. Due to increasing difficulty in securing public funds there is no survey planned for 2015, however there is guaranteed funding for the surveys in 2016 and 2018.

Why are we doing this survey?

The aim of the survey is to provide accurate statistics that are used to inform policy and planning and used by Academia and Researchers in their research papers to make it easier for doctors, nurses and local authorities to help young people. The survey results also enable schools to better understand and plan around pupils' behaviours around key lifestyle behaviours so it is important to collect as much accurate information as possible.

Who is doing the survey?

The survey until 2014 was carried out by NatCen Social Research and the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) on behalf of the Health and Social Care Information Centre. The 2016 and 2018 surveys (and any intervening surveys in 2017 and 2019 if external funding is available) will be carried out by Ipsos MORI.

How do you choose who takes part?

For each survey around one in ten secondary schools in England is randomly selected to take part in the survey. Nearly every type of school with pupils in years 7 to 11 is eligible for selection and only very small schools, special schools and pupil referral units are excluded

Different schools are chosen each year and schools are never asked to take part two years in a row. Since the survey's been running since 1982, there's a chance some schools will be asked to take part more than once.

Around 35 pupils are randomly selected to take part in the survey, using school register for Years 7 through to 11 for the new school year.

By randomly selecting pupils it ensures that everyone has an equal chance of being picked.

This means that only selected pupils are able to take part and pupils can't be substituted once they've been chosen.

What does taking part in survey involve?

The survey fieldwork takes place during the autumn term and only requires a small time commitment from schools taking part and typically requires one lesson period for anonymous completion of the survey by approximately 30 randomly selected pupils aged 11 to 15, in exam conditions. Each stage of the short process - from agreeing to take part to the survey being completed - has been organised and supported by experienced NatCen staff in the past and will continue to be organised by experienced Ipsos MORI staff who are the contractor managing the study on behalf of the Health and Social Care Information Centre.

A teacher from a participating school provided this feedback from a recent survey:

  • "The process was very simple and actually I was surprised at how little we had to do - it felt like minimal effort for maximum return. Having being through the experience, I actually think this could be a great role for a newly qualified teacher; as while organising your school's participation in the survey isn't time intensive, it offers the chance to take on a new task and tick off some of the essential standards."
  • "The pupils were fine about taking part when it was explained to them that the responses would be anonymous. They completed the survey in a test environment with one of the NatCen staff, who was very cool with the kids. It took most of them about 35 minutes to complete and I think they were actually disappointed it didn't take longer, so they could have time off from the next lesson."

What data items are collected?

The survey includes information on

  • prevalence of smoking, drinking and drug taking among school children
  • the number of pupils who have never smoked, drunk alcohol or taken drugs
  • types alcohol and drugs taken
  • how often pupils smoke, drink and take drugs
  • where pupils obtain cigarettes, alcoholic drinks and drugs
  • pupils' attitudes to these behaviours
  • predictors of the likelihood of smoking, drinking and drug use among school

What happens to the answers?

The answers will not include names or address on, so no-one who sees them will know whose they are. The answers from the questionnaire will then be put together with the answers collected from thousands of other young people. Together they will be used to find out about young people.

The answers will be completely confidential so young people need not be afraid to answer the questions truthfully - they won't get into any trouble! It's really important that the answers are accurate so, young people are advised to leave any questions they are uncomfortable answering blank.

The results collected are used for research purposes only and the findings won't identify anyone who took part. 

You will never receive any junk mail as a result of speaking to us. We never pass on your details to other organisations for commercial purposes.

Latest findings and report

The latest Smoking Drinking and Drug Use among Young People in England report and key findings are available in the HSCIC publication catalogue.

A full anonymised dataset of this series of surveys is available in the UK Data Services Catalogue.

The HSCIC undertook a public consultation on the future format and content of the survey in summer 2015 to ensure that the survey continues to be relevant and meet users' needs. The findings from the consultation are available in the pdf icon Smoking Drinking and Drug Use among Young People in England consultation outcomes report [401kb].

The HSCIC would like to thank all those who took part in the consultation.

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