Children and Families Policy Research Unit


NIHR Children and Families Policy Research Unit


Case Study: Adolescence

Helping young people say 'no': the prevalence of risk-taking behaviour and what works to reduce it


How many adolescents smoke, drink and take drugs and what kind of interventions work best to stop them?

Adolescent years are a notoriously challenging time, as children go through the biggest changes since their first year of life. It's this life stage that presents the greatest risk to future health, with damaging habits most often picked up between the ages of 11 and 19.

Research under the adolescent theme has examined the trends in health risk behaviours and reviewed interventions designed to prevent them, in order to inform UK health policy for this susceptible group.

Key Points:

  • Two studies looked at trends in risky behaviours in adolescents and interventions designed to prevent them
  • Smoking, drinking and drug use have individually declined, but a core of young people remain who engage in all three
  • School-based interventions designed to empower young people to say 'no' have proved most effective at reducing multiple harmful behaviours

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This case study is for the Adolescence theme.