Key findings

  • From 2001 to 2019, single occasion risky drinking at least once a month decreased substantially among young people aged 14–24 (from 47% to 30%).
  • The proportion of young people aged 14–24 who smoke daily has more than halved since 2001 (19.3% to 6.8% in 2019).
  • From 2001 to 2019, there was a reduction in the recent illicit use of drugs (including non-medical use of pharmaceuticals) among young people aged 14–24 (from 32% to 24%).

Young people are identified as a priority population in the National Drug Strategy 2017–2026 as they are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of alcohol, tobacco and illicit use of drugs. These substances can directly and indirectly harm young people’s physical and psychological health, wellbeing and development. Their use has also been associated with negative economic and social outcomes, such as unemployment, low educational attainment, poverty, homelessness and family breakdown (DoH 2017). A key environmental influence in young people’s initial and continuing substance use is their high exposure to substance use portrayals in marketing and media (Jackson et al. 2018; Jernigan et al. 2017).

Alcohol use, in particular, is associated with adverse effects on the developing brain, leading to learning difficulties, potential alcohol dependence and depression (Spear 2018). In 2015, it was the leading cause of the total burden of disease for males aged 15–24 and the second leading cause for females aged 15–24 (see Where do I find more information?) (AIHW 2019). The Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks From Drinking Alcohol provide advice and guidelines to reduce alcohol-related harm (see Box 1 for further details).

The negative impact of smoking on health is well established. Long-term tobacco use is normally established during adolescence (CDC 2020). Tobacco use immediately harms the body, reducing health and fitness, causing respiratory issues and compromising the immune system (Letcher et al. 2015).

  • In the short term, tobacco smoking can lead to addiction, and is associated with mental, social and behavioural problems (Giannakopoulos et al. 2010; Hockenberry et al. 2011).
  • In the long term, it is a leading risk factor for many cardiovascular, respiratory and chronic diseases, including many types of cancer (WHO 2020).

The use of electronic cigarettes (or e-cigarettes) among young people in Australia has increased in recent years (AIHW 2020). This is concerning, as hazardous substances have been found in some e-cigarette liquids and aerosols, and e-cigarette-related lung injury has caused hospitalisation and death for some (RCH 2020). Some e-cigarette liquids also contain nicotine, which, due to its highly addictive effect, can lead to further use and to experimentation with other addictive substances (RCH 2020).  Nicotine exposure in adolescence may also cause long-term changes to brain function related to learning, memory, mood and reward pathways, including the development of a permanent susceptibility to nicotine addiction (Wood et al. 2019).

E-cigarette liquid flavours have played a marketing role in promoting the perceived attractiveness of e-cigarettes and in encouraging people to start smoking them (U.S. DHHS 2016). Further, people who use e‑cigarettes and have never smoked combustible cigarettes are, on average, around 3 times as likely to take up smoking combustible cigarettes as those who have not used e-cigarettes (Byrne et al. 2018; Banks et al. 2020).

The illicit use of drugs has both short- and long-term detrimental effects on health and wellbeing, including illness, injury, impacts on mental health, brain damage and respiratory problems (AIHW 2020). In 2015, among young people aged 15–24, illicit use of drugs was the second leading cause of total burden of disease in males and the third leading cause in females (see Where do I find more information?) (AIHW 2019). The illicit use of drugs refers not only to the use of illegal drugs but also the non-medical use of pharmaceuticals, and the illicit use of volatile substances (AIHW 2020).

Australia has established a wide array of strategies, initiatives and research activities to better understand, create awareness and reduce the harm caused by alcohol, tobacco and other drug use (see Where do I find more information?).

Box 1: Data sources and definitions for alcohol, tobacco and the illicit use of drugs

Data presented in this section are based on an analysis of data from the National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) and the NDSHS 2019 report. The NDSHS collects information on alcohol and tobacco consumption and the illicit use of drugs in people aged 14 and over. It also collects information on attitudes and perceptions towards alcohol, tobacco and other drug use. The NDSHS is conducted every 3 years. As it is based on households, homeless people or people living in institutions are not included in the 2019 survey results (consistent with previous years). Unless otherwise referenced, NDSHS data reported here are from a customised data request.

The NHMRC publishes the Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol (NHMRC 2020). New guidelines were released in December 2020. The 2009 alcohol guidelines were the current advice at the time of data collection for the NDSHS in 2019 and are reported here (see also Where do I find more information?) (AIHW 2020).

The 2020 guidelines recommend that for adults, healthy men and women should drink no more than 10 standard drinks a week and no more than 4 standard drinks on any 1 day. Young people under 18 should not drink alcohol (NHMRC 2020).

Based on the 2009 alcohol guidelines, this report defines:

  • single occasion risky drinking as drinking more than 4 standard drinks on a single occasion
  • lifetime risky drinking as drinking an average of more than 2 standard drinks per day (AIHW 2020).

Note that the 2009 guidelines recommended that the safest option for young people aged 15–17 was to not drink alcohol (AIHW 2020).

The NDSHS uses the following definitions for tobacco use:

  • daily use: reported smoking of tobacco at least once per day
  • occasional use: reported smoking of tobacco weekly or less than weekly, but not as often as daily
  • current smoker: reported smoking of tobacco daily, weekly or less than weekly
  • ex-smoker: reported smoking at least 100 cigarettes or the equivalent amount of tobacco in their life and now reported to be no longer smoking
  • never smoked: reporting having smoked fewer than 100 cigarettes or the equivalent amount of tobacco in their lifetime
  • electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes): devices designed to deliver nicotine and/or other chemicals via an aerosol vapour that the user inhales.

The NDSHS defines the illicit use of drugs as:

  • use of illegal drugs (such as meth/amphetamines and cocaine)
  • use of pharmaceuticals for non-medical purposes (for example, using oxycodone or benzodiazepines without a prescription, or in a quantity or for a purpose for which it is not intended)
  • inappropriate use of volatile substances (for example, inhalants such as petrol or glue).

For more detailed definitions, see the NDSHS 2019 report.

Variation across population groups

The NDSHS includes variables to support the disaggregation of data by remoteness and socioeconomic areas; however, in some cases, findings were not statistically significant, and so are not reported here. This may be in part due to small sample sizes.

How many young people drink at risky levels?

In 2019, based on data from the NDSHS 2019, among young people aged 14–24, the average age at which they first drank alcohol was 16.2, with a similar age for males and females (16.1 and 16.3, respectively).

Of young people aged 14–24, 30% drank alcohol at levels that put them at risk of harm on that occasion (single occasion risky drinkers) at least once a month in the 12 months before the survey:

  • The proportion was higher among young males than among young females (34% compared with 25%).
  • The proportion of those aged 18–24 was around 5 times as high as that of 14–17 year olds (41% compared with 8.9%) (Figure 1).

Of young people aged 14–24, 13.1% drank at levels that put them at risk of harm over their lifetime in the 12 months before the survey (lifetime risky drinkers):

  • The proportion of males was 3 times as high as that of females (18.7% compared with 6.6%).
  • The proportion of young people aged 18–24 was nearly 9 times as high as that of those aged 14–17 (18.8% compared with 2.2%* (see Technical notes)) (Figure 1).

The proportion of young people aged 14–24 who were lifetime risky drinkers was less than half that of young people who were single occasion risky drinkers at least once a month (13.1% compared with 30%). People can be classified as single occasion risky drinkers, lifetime risky drinkers or both, depending on their drinking behaviours.

38% of young people did not consume alcohol in the previous 12 months with:

  • males and females equally likely to abstain (38% and 39%, respectively)
  • more than 3 times as many 14–17 year olds as 18–24 year olds abstaining (73% compared with 21%) (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Alcohol use status for young people aged 14–24, by age and sex, 2019

The column chart shows that in 2019 18–24 year olds were the only group in which a higher proportion were single occasion risky drinkers (41%25) than abstainers (21%25).

Notes

  1. The percentage for lifetime risky drinkers in the age category 14–17 years old has a relative standard error (RSE) of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution.
  2. Categories of alcohol use status are not mutually exclusive.
  3. Categories are based on the 2009 Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol (AIHW 2020).

Chart: AIHW.
Source: NDSHS 2019.

In 2019, among young people aged 14–24:

  • around 1 in 10 (10.5%) consumed 11 or more drinks on a single occasion at least once a month, with the proportion for males almost 3 times as high as that for females (15.3% compared with 5.3%)
  • around 1 in 5 (22%) consumed 11 or more drinks on a single occasion at least once a year, with a much greater proportion of those aged 18–24 doing so than 14–17 year olds (30% compared with 5.7%).

When and which type of alcohol are young people drinking?

In 2019, among young people aged 14–24 who had consumed alcohol in the last 12 weeks, the most common days to have last consumed alcohol were:

  • Friday and Saturday (28% and 26%, respectively). Friday was 1.6 times as likely for young people aged 14–17 than 18–24 year olds (43% compared with 26%).

Of young people aged 14–24 who consumed alcohol in the last week:

  • the most common types of alcohol consumed by males were beer, spirits (not pre-mixed), and pre-mixed drinks (60%, 30% and 20%, respectively) (note that more than 1 type of alcohol could be selected)
  • the most common types of alcohol for females were wine, pre-mixed drinks and spirits (not pre-mixed) (35%, 30% and 25%, respectively).

How many young people smoke?

In 2019, most young people aged 14–24 had never smoked (85%), 4.2% were occasional smokers (smoking weekly or less) and 6.8% were daily smokers:

  • The proportion of males and females who smoked daily was similar (7.8% and 5.9% respectively).
  • The proportion of daily smokers was higher among young people aged 18–24 than among 14–17 year olds (9.2% compared with 1.9%*, see Technical notes).
  • Young people aged 18–24 were more likely to be occasional smokers than 14–17 year olds (5.7% compared with around 1.3%*, see Technical notes).
  • Young people aged 14–17 were more likely to have never smoked than 18–24 year olds (97% compared with 80%) (Figure 2).

In 2019, among young people aged 14–24 who have smoked, the average age they first smoked a full cigarette was 16.6 years old (AIHW 2020). This was the same for males and females of this age group.

Figure 2: Frequency of tobacco smoking for young people aged 14–24, by age and sex, 2019

The stacked column chart shows that in 2019 irrespective of age or sex most young people had never smoked, with the lowest proportion in 18–24 year olds (80 %25).

(a) Includes people who reported smoking weekly or less than weekly but not as often as daily.
(b) Smoked at least 100 cigarettes (manufactured and/or roll-your-own) or the equivalent amount of tobacco in their life and reported no longer smoking.
(c) Never smoked 100 cigarettes (manufactured and/or roll-your-own) or the equivalent amount of tobacco in their life.
Notes

  1. The percentages for Occasional and Daily in the age category 14–17 years have an RSE of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution.
  2. The percentage for ex-smoker in the age category 14–17 years had a high level of sampling error (RSE of 51% to 90%) and is too unreliable to be shown.

Chart: AIHW.
Source: NDSHS 2019.

How many young people use electronic cigarettes?

In 2019, 4.1% of young people aged 14–24 used e-cigarettes (electronic cigarettes). The use of e-cigarettes varied based on smoker status, age and sex:

  • Around 8 times as many current smokers (18.6%) use e-cigarettes as non‑smokers (2.3%).
  • Males (current smokers or non-smokers) were around 3 times as likely to use e-cigarettes as females (5.7% compared with 2.2%).
  • A similar proportion of current smokers aged 14–17 and 18–24 had tried e‑cigarettes in their lifetime (63.6% and 63.9%, respectively).
  • Non-smokers aged 18–24 were more likely than those aged 14–17 to have tried e-cigarettes in their lifetime (20% compared with 7.8%).
  • 65% of young people aged 14–17 had never smoked when they first tried e‑cigarettes, and 34% were current smokers. This pattern is reversed for 18–24 year olds; more were current smokers when they first tried e‑cigarettes than had never smoked (58% compared with 39%) (AIHW 2020).

The most common reasons for trying e-cigarettes for both young people aged 14–17 and 18–24 year olds was curiosity (73% and 72%, respectively). Other common reasons for 18–24 year olds included:

  • thinking they are less harmful (22%), taste better than regular cigarettes (21%) and to help quit smoking (13.6%) (AIHW 2020).

How many young people engage in illicit use of drugs?

In 2019, 24% of young people aged 14–24 engaged in illicit use of drugs (including non-medical use of pharmaceuticals) in the 12 months before the survey. As well:

  • males were more likely to engage in illicit use of any drugs than females (27% and 21%, respectively)
  • 18–24 year olds were more likely to engage in illicit use of any drugs than 14–17 year olds (31% compared with 9.7%)
  • illicit use of drugs excluding pharmaceuticals was almost 5 times as high as the non-medical use of pharmaceutical drugs (23% compared with 4.6%) (see Technical notes for detailed definitions)
  • the most commonly used illicit drugs (excluding pharmaceuticals) were marijuana/cannabis (19.7%), ecstasy (7.6%) and cocaine (7.3%)
  • the most common pharmaceuticals used for a non-medical purpose were pain-killers/pain-relievers and opioids (2.5%) and tranquillisers/sleeping pills (1.9%).

In 2019, among young people aged 14–29 who engaged in illicit use of drugs (including pharmaceuticals), the average age they first used/tried the drug was 17.3 years old (AIHW 2020).

What is the association between illicit use of drugs (including pharmaceuticals), mental illness and psychological distress?

In 2019, young people aged 14–24 with self-reported mental health illness were more likely to have engaged in illicit use of drugs (including pharmaceuticals) in the last 12 months than people without (36% compared with 22%).

Young people aged 18–24 with low levels of psychological distress were less likely to have engaged in illicit use of drugs (including pharmaceuticals) than those with higher levels of psychological distress (43% for high/very high distress, 34% for moderate distress and 24% for low distress).

It is important to note that these findings are associations and do not establish a causal relationship between mental illness and drug use (AIHW 2020). Mental illness may have preceded or followed drug use. The relationship between drug taking and mental illness is complex. Drugs are sometimes used for short-term relief and can also make symptoms of mental illness worse (SANE Australia 2016). 

What factors influence young people’s decision to use a drug (including pharmaceuticals) for the first time?

In 2019, among young people aged 14–24 who have illicitly used a drug (including pharmaceuticals) in their lifetime, the most common factors, for both young people aged 14–17 and 18–24, that influenced their decision to first illicitly use a drug were:

  • to see what it was like/curiosity (66% and 77%, respectively)
  • friends or family members were using it/it was offered by a friend or family member (49% and 55%, respectively)
  • to do something exciting (25% and 33%, respectively) (AIHW 2020).

The most common factors influencing the decision of young people aged 14–24 to never illicitly use drugs (including pharmaceuticals) were:

  • just not interested (69%)
  • for reasons related to health or addiction (55%)
  • for reasons related to the law (43%) (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Factors influencing the decision of young people aged 14–24 to never illicitly use drugs (including pharmaceuticals), by sex, 2019

The bar chart shows that in 2019 “just not interested” is the main factor influencing the decision to never illicitly use drugs (including pharmaceuticals) for young males (63%25), young females (74%25) and young people (69%25).

Note: Respondents could select more than 1 response.
Chart: AIHW.
Source: NDSHS 2019.

Box 2: Harm caused by the use of alcohol and illicit drugs

Alcohol use

In 2019, 2.5% of young people aged 18–24 who drank alcohol in the 12 months before the survey got an injury requiring medical attention while under the influence of alcohol.

12.1% of young people aged 14–17 and 34% of 18–24 year olds were victims of alcohol-related incidents in the previous 12 months:

  • 14–17 year olds were equally likely to experience verbal abuse (8.2%) as they were to be put in fear (8.2%)
  • 18–24 year olds were around 3 times as likely to experience verbal abuse (25%) and be put in fear (22%) compared with physical abuse (7.5%) (AIHW 2020).

Illicit drug use

In 2019, in the previous 12 months, more young people aged 18–24 experienced an incident of illicit drug-related harm from others than 14–17 year olds (13.4% compared with 5.9%):

  • Being put in fear was the most common form of harm for both age groups (9.7% and 4.6%, respectively).

Young people aged 18–24 were more than 3 times as likely to have experienced illicit drug-related verbal abuse from others compared with physical abuse (9.1% and 2.7%, respectively) (AIHW 2020).

Have there been changes over time?

For alcohol use

From 2001 to 2019, there was a substantial decrease in single occasion risky drinking at least once a month (from 47% to 30%) among young people aged 14–24 (Figure 4). In addition:

  • there were similar decreases among males (from 53% to 34%) and females (from 42% to 25%)
  • the largest decreases were for young people aged 14–17 (from 30% to 8.9%), with drinking in 18–24 year olds also decreasing (from 57% to 41%).

From 2001 to 2019, the proportion of young people aged 14–24 drinking at lifetime risky levels almost halved (from 25% to 13.1%) (Figure 4). In addition:

  • both males (31% to 18.7%) and females (18.1% to 6.6%) had large reductions
  • there were also large reductions for young people aged 14–17 (from 13.3% to 2.2%*, see Technical notes) and 18–24 year olds (from 31% to 18.8%).

From 2010 to 2019, there was a decrease in the proportion of young people aged 14–24 drinking 11 or more standard drinks on a single occasion at least once a month (from 17.6% to 10.5%) (Figure 4). This trend has been largely driven by reductions among 18–24 year olds (from 24% to 14.6%).

From 2001 to 2019, the proportion of young people aged 14–24 who abstained from drinking more than doubled (from 17.8% to 38%) (Figure 4):

  • This was true for both young people aged 14–17 (from 32% to 73%) and 18–24 year olds (from 9.7% to 21%).

Figure 4: Alcohol use of young people aged 14–24 over time, 2001 to 2019

The line chart shows the decrease between 2001 and 2019 in the proportion of young people who were single occasion risky drinkers (from 47%25 to 30%25), lifetime risky drinkers (from 25%25 to 13.1%25), and increase in abstainers (from 17.8%25 to 38%25).

Notes
1. Categories of alcohol use status are not mutually exclusive.
2. Categories are based on the 2009 Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol (AIHW 2020).
Chart: AIHW.
Source: NDSHS 2019.

For tobacco use

From 2001 to 2019, the proportion of young people aged 14–24 who were daily smokers has more than halved (19.3% to 6.8%) (Figure 5):

  • Over this period, there were large decreases among 14–17 year olds (11.2% to 1.9%*, see Technical notes), 18–24 year olds (24% to 9.2%), males (19.1% to 7.8%) and females (19.4% to 5.9%).

Among young people aged 14–24, over the same period of time:

  • the proportion who were occasional smokers has fallen (6.6% to 4.2%)
  • the proportion who have never smoked has increased (67% to 85%), with increases among 14–17 year olds (82% to 97%), 18–24 year olds (58% to 80%), males (66% to 83%) and females (67% to 88%).

Between 2016 and 2019, the proportion of young people aged 14–24 who reported currently using e-cigarettes nearly doubled (from 2.2% to 4.1%). Over this period, the age group 14–24 consistently had the highest proportion of current e-cigarette users compared with all other similarly sized age groups.

Figure 5: Daily smoker status among young people aged 14–24, by sex, 2001 to 2019

The line chart shows the decrease between 2001 and 2019 in the proportion of daily smokers among young people (19.3%25 to 6.8%25), young males (19.1%25 to 7.8%25), and young females (19.4%25 to 5.9%25).

Chart: AIHW.
Source: NDSHS 2019.

For the illicit use of drugs

The proportion of young people aged 15–24 who reported ever having engaged in illicit use of drugs (including pharmaceuticals) decreased from 50% in 2001 to 38% in 2019 (AIHW 2020).

From 2001 to 2019, there was also a reduction in the recent illicit use of drugs (including pharmaceuticals) among young people aged 14–24 (from 32% to 24%). The greatest reduction occurred between 2001 and 2007 (32% to 22%), after which the proportion remained largely unchanged:

  • Between 2001 and 2007, a reduction can be seen across:
    • age groups: from 23% to 13.2% for 14–17 year olds and from 37% to 26% for 18–24 year olds (Figure 6)
    • sexes: from 35% to 23% for males and 29% to 21% for females.
  • From 2010 to 2019, illicit use of drugs (including pharmaceuticals) differed by sex and age group. The proportion:
    • continued to fall for 14–17 year olds (14.5% to 9.7%) but increased for 18–24 year olds (27% to 31%) (Figure 6)
    • remained largely unchanged for males (24% to 27%) and females (22% to 21%).

From 2001 to 2019, non-medical use of tranquilliser/sleeping pills remained largely unchanged (2.3% in 2001 and 1.9% in 2019).

Figure 6: Recent illicit use of drugs (including pharmaceuticals) for young people aged 14–24, 2001 to 2019

The line chart shows that, after decreasing from 2001 to 2007, the proportion of young people with recent illicit use of drugs (including pharmaceuticals) has increased for young people aged 18–24 (to 31%25 in 2019), and decreased for 14–17 year olds (to 9.7%25 in 2019).

Chart: AIHW.
Source: NDSHS 2019.

From 2001 to 2019, illicit use of drugs (excluding pharmaceuticals) among young people aged 14–24 follows a similar trend; namely:

  • a large reduction in use between 2001 and 2007 (from 30% to 20%)
  • no statistically significant change since 2007 (23% in 2019).

However, the changes in use over time among young people aged 14–24 vary with different types of illicit drugs (excluding pharmaceuticals):

  • Between 2001 and 2019, the use of meth/amphetamine has declined, from 9.6% to 1.5%.
  • Illicit use of drugs (excluding pharmaceuticals) other than meth/amphetamine are more variable, with some showing an increase in use from 2016 to 2019:
    • ecstasy (from 5.8% to 7.6%), the highest levels of use since 2007
    • cocaine (from 3.5% to 7.3%), the highest levels of use since 2001
    • hallucinogens (2.6% to 3.9%), the highest levels of use since 2013
    • inhalants (1.7% to 4.1%), the highest levels of use since 2001
    • ketamine (1.1% to 2.8%), the highest levels of use since 2001.

Do rates vary across population groups?

For alcohol use

In 2019, more young people aged 14–24 who were born in Australia were single occasion risky drinkers at least once a month than those born overseas (33% compared with 19.2%). The proportion of young people who were lifetime risky drinkers was similar across population groups (Figure 7).

The proportion of people born in Australia who abstained was less than that of those born overseas (34% compared with 52%) but did not vary across other population groups.

Figure 7: Alcohol use status for young people aged 14–24, by selected population groups, 2019

The bar chart shows that risky drinking did not vary by population group except when comparing the proportion of single occasion risky drinkers in young people born in Australia (33%25), with those born overseas (19.2%25).

Notes
1. Categories of alcohol use status are not mutually exclusive.
2. Categories are based on the 2009 Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol (AIHW 2020).
Chart: AIHW.
Source: NDSHS 2019.

For tobacco use

In 2019, among young people aged 14–24, the proportion who were daily smokers was:

  • similar across remoteness areas (6.7% for Major cities, 6.6% for Inner regional areas, 8.5% for Outer regional/Remote/Very remote areas)
  • almost 5 times as high for those living in the lowest socioeconomic areas as those in the highest socioeconomic areas (10.9% compared with 2.2%*, see Technical notes)
  • around twice as high for those born in Australia compared with those born overseas (7.0% compared with 4.1%*, see Technical notes) (Figure 8).

Figure 8: Daily smoker status for young people aged 14–24, by selected population groups, 2019

The bar chart shows that daily smoking differed when comparing the proportion of young people in the lowest socioeconomic areas (10.9%25), with the highest (2.2%25*), and when comparing those born in Australia (7.0%25), with those born overseas (4.1%25*).

Note: The percentages for highest socioeconomic area and born overseas have an RSE of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution.
Chart: AIHW.
Source: NDSHS 2019.

The proportion of young people aged 14–24 who never smoked varied by population group:

  • More people from the highest socioeconomic areas had never smoked than those from the lowest socioeconomic areas (90% compared with 80%).
  • Fewer people born in Australia had never smoked than those born overseas (84% compared with 92%).
  • Similar proportions across remoteness areas had never smoked (87% for Major cities, 82% for Inner regional areas and 81% for Outer regional/Remote/Very remote areas).

For illicit use of drugs (including pharmaceuticals)

In 2019, the proportion of young people aged 14–24 who engaged in illicit use of drugs (including pharmaceuticals) in the 12 months before the survey was similar between certain population groups:

  • 25% for Major cities, 21% for Inner regional areas, 24% for Outer regional/Remote/Very remote areas
  • 25% for the lowest socioeconomic areas and 28% for the highest socioeconomic areas (Figure 9).

Fewer young people born overseas engaged in illicit use of drugs (including pharmaceuticals) than young people born in Australia (14.1% compared with 27%) (Figure 9).

Figure 9: Recent illicit use of drugs (including pharmaceuticals) by young people aged 14–24, by selected population groups, 2019

The bar chart shows that recent illicit use of drugs differed when comparing the proportion of young people born in Australia (27%25) with those born overseas (14.1%25).

Chart: AIHW.
Source: NDSHS 2019.

How does Australia compare internationally?

In 2019 (or the nearest year of available data), the proportion of young people aged 15–24 who were daily smokers was lower for Australia than the derived Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average (7.5% compared with 15.0%) (see Technical notes) (OECD 2020). From the most recently collected OECD data:

  • France, Greece and Hungary had the highest proportions of young daily smokers (31%, 29% and 27%, respectively)
  • the United States, Iceland and Norway had the lowest proportions of young daily smokers (5.0%, 3.2% and 2.0%, respectively) (Figure 10).

Figure 10: Daily smokers among young people aged 15–24 from selected OECD countries, 2019 or nearest year

The bar chart shows that the proportion of young people who were daily smokers (7.5%25) was lower than the derived OECD average (15.0%25).

Notes

  1. All data, except that for Australia, are sourced from the OECD Health Statistics 2020 website, published on 1 July 2020. Australian data are sourced from the NDSHS 2019, published on 16 July 2020. Results are for 2019 or the nearest year for OECD countries with available data after 2010.
  2. The derived OECD average has been calculated by the AIHW from the latest year of data available for each of the OECD countries with available data. It was not possible to calculate confidence intervals to indicate variability around estimates from the published data available.
  3. Variation between results for each country may occur due to differences in data collection, quality and available years of data.

Chart: AIHW.
Sources: AIHW 2020; OECD 2020.

Where do I find more information?

For information on Indigenous young people and the use of alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs, see:

For more information on:

 


Return to Australia's youth: