7.1 General context
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Main trends in the health conditions of young people
The Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (SALSUS) is part of a series of national surveys on smoking, drinking and drug use. The survey is conducted on a biennial basis, targeting secondary school pupils in years S2 (aged around 13) and S4 (aged around 15) in local authority and independent schools. It is commissioned by the Scottish Government to measure progress towards targets for reducing smoking and drug use, and is used to inform the Scottish Government priority of addressing harmful drinking among young people. The findings from the 2018 survey were published in November 2019.
The findings of the 2018 mental health and wellbeing report of SALSUS, published in June 2020, include:
- In 2018, 63% of pupils had a normal overall score on the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), 18% had a borderline score and 20% had an abnormal score.
- Since 2010, the proportion of pupils with borderline or abnormal SDQ scores has continually risen, while the proportion of pupils with normal scores has fallen.
- 15 year old girls continue to have the highest rate of borderline or abnormal SDQ scores, a trend since 2010, although this gap has narrowed since the last wave.
- The average mental wellbeing (WEMWBS) score for all pupils decreased between 2015 and 2018 from 48.4 to 46.9. This suggests that there has been a general negative shift in mental wellbeing since the last survey in 2016.
- The greatest changes in WEMWBS scores have been a decrease in wellbeing among 13 year old girls and 15 year old boys. However, 15 year old girls continue to have the lowest wellbeing score, as they have since 2010.
The SALSUS 2018 drugs use report found the following:
- 6% of 13 year olds and 21% of 15 year olds had ever used drugs.
- 4% of 13 year olds and 12% of 15 year olds reported using drugs in the last month.
- Drug use in the last month has been gradually decreasing since 2002, when 8% of 13 year olds and 23% of 15 year olds reported using drugs in the last month. However, between 2013 and 2018, there was an increase in the proportion of 13 year old and 15 year old boys who took drugs in the month prior to the survey (from 2% and 11% respectively in 2013, to 4% and 15% in 2018).
- Cannabis was the most widely used drug; 19% of 15 year olds had ever used cannabis. 6% of 15 year olds had ever taken ecstasy, 5% had ever taken cocaine, 5% had ever taken any form of Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS) and 5% had ever taken MDMA powder.
- 31% of 13 year olds and 42% of 15 year olds who had ever used drugs had been drinking alcohol the last time they had used drugs 15% of all pupils had used more than one drug (polydrug use) the last time they had used drugs.
The SALSUS 2018 report on alcohol found the following:
Just over a third of 13 year old pupils (36%) and 71% of 15 year olds have ever had an alcoholic drink.
Only a small proportion had drunk alcohol in the 7 days prior to completing the survey: 6% of 13 year olds and 20% of 15 year olds.
Between 2015 and 2018, there has been an increase in the proportion of boys who had drunk in the last week: from 4% to 7% among 13 year olds and from 16% to 20% among 15 year olds. There was also an increase among 13 year old girls, from 4% in 2015 to 6% in 2018. Among 15 year old girls there has been no statistically significant change.
The mean age that 15 year olds first had a drink was 13.3 years.
Among 13 year olds, around half (52%) of those who had ever had a drink had experienced one (or more) negative effect as a result of drinking alcohol in the last year, compared with over half of 15 year olds (63%).
16% of 13 year olds and 49% of 15 year olds thought that it was ‘ok’ for someone their age to try getting drunk. This has increased among both age groups since 2015: 9% of 13 year olds thought it was ‘ok’ to try getting drunk in 2015, compared with 16% in 2018 and 38% of 15 year olds thought this in 2015, compared with 49% in 2018.
No particular concepts identified.