Underage drinking declining in many countries worldwide, new analysis shows

  • Underage drinking has fallen in over two-thirds of the 63 countries where national data is available, since 2003.
  • Australia, all parts of Great Britain, and Trinidad and Tobago have seen declines of more than 40%.
  • The International Alliance for Responsible Drinking is emphasizing that more needs to be done to keep tackling underage drinking, through partnerships that support government regulation.
Since 2003, underage drinking has declined in over two-thirds of the 63 countries where national data is available, according to new data analysis1 by the International Association for Responsible Drinking (IARD)2.
However, the Trends in underage drinking: Working together to deliver change report shows underage drinking remains an issue. There have been increases in Indonesia, Thailand, and Mexico in recent years, showing there is still much work to be done. 

The IARD report also points out the lack of robust data collection in many areas across the world. It calls for greater efforts to monitor and tackle underage drinking internationally, as well as robust partnerships among private and public sectors and communities, to support enforcement of government regulation in this area.
Additional research among 12,000 adults in nine countries – conducted by YouGov for IARD – found that, on average, over half (54%) of survey respondents agreed that government regulations to prevent underage drinking were not well enforced3. Over a third, on average, also (40%) believed that the alcohol industry should play a role in reducing underage drinking, coming second to family members (74%).4

Henry Ashworth, CEO of the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking, said: “Children and minors should not drink alcohol, or have access to it. And, although it is positive to see downward trends in many countries, there is still much work to be done. It is critical that, across the world, we continue to build on these positive, downward trends and ensure everyone recognizes the harms linked to underage drinking.
“Government regulations, such as legal drinking ages, are the cornerstone for reducing underage drinking. But, effective partnerships between industry, the public sector, and civil society are crucial to promoting awareness of the risks and continuing the progress that’s already underway. Together, we can ensure that the positive decline in underage drinking seen in many areas continues to spread, creating long-lasting changes in our societies across the world.”
Key stats at a glance
  • Across Great Britain, weekly drinking rates among 11- to 15-year-old boys have fallen by between 46% and 64%, while the rates among girls have dropped by between 54% and 64% (2010–2014).
  • In Australia, the proportion of underage people who do not drink has increased by 55% since 2013 (2013–2016, ages 12-17).
  • In Trinidad and Tobago, underage drinking rates have fallen by 52% in boys, and 44% among girls (2006–2013, ages 13-17).
  • In Thailand, underage drinking rates have increased by 23% for boys, and by 90% (from 10% to 19%) for girls (2008–2015, ages 13-17).
  • In Mexico, underage drinking rates have increased by 25% (from 12% to 15%) for girls; there has been no change for boys (2011–2016, ages 12-17).
  • In Argentina underage drinking rates have increased by 6% for boys, and 9% for girls (2009–2014, ages 14-18).
Innovative partnerships in action  
  • “Ask, Listen, Learn” in the United States is a research-based cross-curricular teaching program, which educates young people on how alcohol affects the brain, and the dangers of underage drinking.
  • “Challenge 21” and “Challenge 25” in the United Kingdom are retail-based programs that encourage retailers to ask any customer attempting to buy alcohol for proof of age, if they look under 25 years old.
  • “STOP!” in Japan is a campaign aimed at making it harder for underage youths to buy alcohol. Its distinctive logo is now used in all alcohol advertisements, as well as communications targeted at manufacturers, retailers, and educational institutions.
Notes to editors
  1. A link to the full report and statistics can be found here:
  2. The International Alliance for Responsible Drinking (IARD) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to addressing harmful drinking worldwide. IARD is supported by its member companies from all sectors of the regulated alcohol industry – beer, wine, and spirits – in their common purpose of being part of the solution to reducing the harmful use of alcohol. For more information on our membership and what we do, please visit
  3. All figures related to polling, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 12,137 adults in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Australia, Japan, Mexico New Zealand, the United States, and South Africa. Fieldwork was undertaken between June 19th and July 4th, 2019.  The surveys were conducted online. The figures have been given an even weighting for each country to produce a cross-country average.
  4. The percentage of respondents that felt that government regulations to prevent underage drinking were not well enforced varied from 37% to 81% in each of the nine countries surveyed (Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Africa, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Mexico, and the United States). At least one-third of respondents in each country (range: 31% to 58%) believed that the alcohol industry has a role to play in reducing underage drinking, coming second to family members (range: 58% to 89%).