Alcohol consumption among young people is a growing public health concern. It can lower inhibitions and contribute to higher rates of certain risky sexual behavior. For example, adolescents who use alcohol are approximately three times less likely to use condoms. Alcohol use also is associated with an increased chance of both experiencing and perpetrating sexual violence. These factors all place young people who use alcohol at a greater risk of unplanned pregnancy and of contracting HIV and other STIs. Alcohol also contributes to an increased risk of mental health problems, alcohol dependency, and alcohol-related injuries from motor vehicle accidents, falls, burns, and drowning.

An estimated 10–20% of the violent deaths among young people are estimated to be alcohol related. The rate of alcohol use among young people is unclear because data is scarce and patterns of use vary by geographical location. Heavy drinking tends to be greater among adolescents under stress and is especially high among street youth. Parents, peers, cultural and gender norms and expectations, and structural aspects such as the legal age of drinking, all influence consumption of alcohol use among youth. The most common programmatic responses to addressing alcohol use are education programs and substance abuse treatment programs. Unfortunately, there are few such programs specifically targeted at young people.

Systematic Review and Meta-analysis: Prevalence of Alcohol Use Among Young People in Eastern Africa

This articles summaries the main findings of a systematic review and meta-analysis of published studies of alcohol use among young people (age 15–24 years) in eastern Africa, conducted to estimate prevalence of alcohol use and determine the extent of use of standardised screening questionnaires in alcohol studies (2014).

Alcohol Use and Sexual Risk Behaviour: A Cross-Cultural Study in Eight Countries 

WHO is initiated and coordinated this comprehensive process of developing a methodology to study factors related to risky sexual behaviour among alcohol users in diverse cultural settings. The project focused on eight countries from four continents (Belarus, India, Mexico, Kenya, Romania, the Russian Federation, South Africa and Zambia) and consisted of (1) a literature review carried out during 2002; (2) developing methodological premises for a field study aimed at complementing the literature data with up-to-date empirical findings (2002); (3) on-site research in the eight countries, yielding eight country reports (2002/2003); and (4) country-specific findings, which are the subject of this report (2005).

Global Status Report: Alcohol and Young People

Although somewhat dated, this report is a compilation of data from WHO's global alcohol database. This report provides an overview of the prevalence of drinking among young people, alcohol-related mortality and other health effects, trends in the alcohol environment surrounding youthful drinking, and prevention policies designed to reduce alcohol-related problems among the young (2001).

YouthLens No. 36: Alcohol and Its Effect on Young People's Reproductive and Sexual Health

This YouthLens brief describes the consequences of alcohol use on young people’s reproductive health. It addresses policies and programs aimed at reducing alcohol use and its negative consequences among young people (2010).

Youth Violence and Alcohol

This fact sheet highlights the role of alcohol in youth violence and summarizes the magnitude of the problem, risk factors for involvement in alcohol-related youth violence, prevention measures, and the role of public health in reducing harmful use of alcohol and related violence (2006).

Wising Up to Alcohol-related HIV Risk: A Counseling Program for STI Patients Attending Primary Health Care Clinics in Cape Town, South Africa

This case study examines a program in South Africa, where rates of alcohol consumption and HIV are among the highest in the world, and sexual risk taking and drinking frequently intersect. In Cape Town, the Phaphama (“Wise Up”) program demonstrated dramatic behavior change in the months following a single, 60-minute counseling session offered to repeat patients at a sexually transmitted infection clinic (2010).


The Mentor Foundation is an international non-governmental organization working to prevent drug and alcohol misuse among young people around the world. Mentor focuses on the prevention of drug misuse in its efforts to promote the health and well-being of children and young people and to reduce damage to their lives.