accessibility & help

Teens feel ill-equipped to handle consequences of underage drinking

13 September 2010
For further information 

Ros Holley, Band & Brown:  0207 419 8614 / 079313 40116
Bryony Partridge, Band & Brown: 0207 419 6943 / 07846 004416

Email Penny Sims /




British Red Cross launches campaign to improve life-saving skills of young people

One in seven (14%) 11-16 year olds has been in an emergency situation as a result of a friend drinking too much alcohol, according to a new study showing the vulnerability of young teens.

The findings from British Red Cross reveal that in the past 12 months more than 1 in 10 (532,128  - 12%) 11-16 year olds have been left to cope with a drunken friend who was sick, injured or unconscious.  Half of these had to deal with someone who had passed out and a quarter had to deal with an injured friend who had been drunk and in a fight. 

And it’s not just alcohol-related injuries which young people have to cope with. Close to nine in 10 (89%) 11-16 year olds have found themselves having to cope in a crisis, with:
• 1 in 4 having to cope with someone having an asthma attack (27%)
• 1 in 3 having to deal with a head injury (33%)
• 1 in 5  having to help  someone choking (18%
• 1 in 10 having to cope with someone having an epileptic fit (9%)
When asked what actions they took in response to these situations, 44% said they panicked and 46% said they didn’t know what to do.

Today’s findings mark the launch of Life. Live it, a British Red Cross campaign aimed at 11-16 year olds, to help young people learn life-saving skills so that they are better able to cope in an emergency.

As part of the world’s largest first aid training and education organisation, the British Red Cross is committed to helping people in a crisis.  Joe Mulligan, first aid expert at the British Red Cross, added: 

“Our aim is that all young people and children in the UK have the opportunity to learn first aid skills and gain the confidence to save lives. Plus it’s not just about saving lives, being able to immediately help someone will reduce pain, minimise distress and speed up the recovery process.”

In terms of alcohol related vulnerability 1 in 5 (23%) 11-16 year olds have been drunk – and have been drunk on average three times in the past six months.  1 in 3 (36%) of those aged 14-16  drink  most weekends, with this group drinking on average 11 units – the equivalent of seven and half alcopops or four large cans of beer/cider.

Official figures show 7,475  under 15s in England were admitted to hospital with conditions specifically linked to alcohol between 2006-2009. Many more injuries will have been dealt with by young people themselves. Only one in 10 young people rang 999 (10%) and less than half (47%) contacted their parents when faced with coping with an injured, sick or unconscious friend.

A large number of young people who stepped in to help were left distressed as they were unsure whether they had done the correct thing. Close to half (47%) were worried their friend would choke on their own vomit or wouldn’t wake up (35%).  And 4 out of 5 (82%) said that they would feel safer if they had some first aid knowledge.

Joe Mulligan, first aid expert at the British Red Cross, said: 

 “In recent years, the issue of young people drinking to excess has been a regular feature in the media but their vital role in saving lives when they and their friends find themselves in vulnerable situations generally has not been mentioned.  We need to ensure that every young person – irrespective of whether they’re drinking – has the ability and confidence to cope in a crisis. The people who most often benefit from others getting first aid education are friends and family rather than strangers and we are always looking for new and innovative ways to reach young people. In launching this campaign, our aim is to make first aid accessible to young people and their everyday lives.”

Despite first aid being introduced to the PSHE curriculum for England in September 2008, the survey suggests that only 1 in 20 (5%) 11-16 year olds have been taught first aid. Even though 3 in 4 PSHE teachers (84%) strongly believe that it should be taught in schools. 

However almost all (97%) 11-16 year olds would welcome first aid education and believe it would improve their confidence, skills and willingness to act in a crisis. 

The British Red Cross is calling on parents to encourage their schools to use the Life.Liveit resources to teach first aid and to encourage young people to go online and learn vital life-saving skills.

Find out how your child can learn more about first aid by visiting
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For further information, please contact:
Ros Holley, Band & Brown, 0207 419 8614 / 079313 40116
Bryony Partridge, Band & Brown, 0207 419 6943 / 07846 004416


Notes to editors

Research was undertaken by ICM Research between 20th and 31st August 2010 via a telephone survey involving 2,500 11-16 year olds. Of the 2,500 questioned 500 11-16 year olds were based in Wales, 500 in Northern Ireland and 500 in Scotland with 1,000 in England.

ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. For further information visit

The British Red Cross
The British Red Cross helps people in crisis, whoever and wherever they are.  We are part of a global voluntary network, responding to conflicts, natural disasters and individual emergencies.  We enable vulnerable people in the UK and abroad to prepare for and withstand emergencies in their own communities.  And when the crisis is over, we help them to recover and more on with their lives. For more information please visit

Life. Live it
The Life.Live It programme launched on 9 September 2006 to equip young people with the first aid skills to cope with any risks they might face in their everyday lives through education. The activity has also resulted in first aid being introduced to the PHSE curriculum in England for 11-16 year olds. 

The British Red Cross is now launching a national youth campaign to increase the number of young people who can act in a crisis and save the lives of others. We know young people want to help others in need but they need more help on how to go about it. To help 11-16-year-olds we're planning a high-profile, national programme of activity, using four key areas relevant to young people’s lives - music, sport, dance and fashion - to teach them valuable first aid skills and inspire them to act in a crisis.


IFRC (International Federation of Red Cross).
The IFRC, the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross together constitute the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. For further information on International Federation activities, please visit our web site:

Today the IFRC published ‘First aid for a safer future: updated global edition.’, This is based on two sources: the European Reference Centre for First Aid Education hosted by the French Red Cross in Paris, and the IFRC 2010 first-aid survey. This updated version of the report widens the focus from Europe to a more global perspective by including examples of first-aid activities implemented by Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies worldwide. For more information or to see the full report visit

 According to ONS 2009 Population Estimates there are 4,434,400,11-16 year olds in the UK.  According to the research 13% of young people have had to deal with a friend who was sick, injured or unconscious as a result of alcohol in the past 12 months. 0.13 x 4,434,400 = 532,128.

 According to the North West Public Health Observatory statistics collated from NHS Hospital Episodes, the number of persons aged under 15 years admitted to hospital with alcohol specific conditions, [2006/07 to 2008/09] = 7,475