Risky behaviours

Many people take risks for the first time as teenagers, such as drinking alcohol or smoking. Researchers have used Next Steps to understand more about which young people engage in risky behaviours.

Findings have shown that young people who take part in one risky behaviour are more likely to take part in others as well – for example, those who play truant are also more likely to shoplift, go to pubs, loiter, smoke, drink, smoke cannabis and engage in risky sexual behaviour. Many of you who engaged in these kind of activities were very influenced by your friends and peers at school.

Research based on Next Steps has found that:

RISKYINFOGRAPHIC01(4)Alcohol and drugs
  • More than half of you had tried alcohol by age 14, and almost all (94 per cent) of you had tried alcohol by age 19. Half reported that you had tried cannabis by age 19.
  • Drinking alcohol was linked to a range of negative outcomes for young people, including lower GCSE results and increased likelihood of being unemployed.
  • Young people from white British backgrounds were more likely (at any age) to have tried alcohol than young people from other ethnic groups.
  • Young people who had been bullied in the last year were up to five times more likely to drink on most days than those who had not.
  • Young people who identified as being lesbian, gay or bisexual were more likely to smoke and drink alcohol.
Sexual behaviour and teenage pregnancy
  • By age 19, 88 per cent of study members reported that they had had sex, and 7 per cent had at least one child of their own. Women were twice as likely as men to report that they had their own child by age 19 (9 per cent compared with 4 per cent).
  • Rates for teenage pregnancy and teenage motherhood were higher in areas with greater levels of deprivation. Young women from less well-off backgrounds were more likely to have been pregnant and, in particular, more likely to have become mothers by the age of 18 than those from more affluent backgrounds.
  • More than one in five of you said you had played truant as a teenager, mostly because there was something at school you didn’t like. Researchers found that even occasional truancy had negative consequences, such as doing badly in GCSE exams and even going on to be unemployed in adulthood.