Schools asked to support survey on Smoking Drinking and Drug Use among young people in England

NHS Digital is calling on selected secondary schools across England to take part in a statistical survey that will measure the use of alcohol, nicotine and drugs in young people.

Pupils undergo the Smoking Drinking and Drug Use among young people in England,1 questionnaire anonymously under exam conditions in selected schools.

The survey began in 1982 and has been used by the government to monitor trends and behaviours and gain a better understanding of the impact of alcohol, nicotine and drugs on children aged 11 to 15.

It provides vital information, which is used by central and local government to better understand these behaviours and to develop policies, plan services and new initiatives, and to monitor and evaluate their impact.

The data is also used by a wide variety of other organisations, including Public Health England, NHS England, charities and voluntary organisations. Academic institutions also use the data for research purposes.

The 2021 report will be published by NHS Digital next year and is accredited with National Statistics2 status, while the survey itself will be carried out by Ipsos MORI3.

It will include information on the percentage of pupils who have ever smoked, drunk alcohol or taken drugs. The report also surveys the attitudes and behaviours of secondary school pupils towards smoking, drinking and drugs and is analysed in relation to a range of demographics including age, gender, ethnicity and geography.

The Smoking, Drinking and Drugs (SDD) survey data was used to help make the case for the legislation implemented in 2015 which banned adults smoking in cars when children are present.

Gary Childs, Head of Delivery for Analytical Services at NHS Digital, said: “Without schools volunteering to participate in the smoking, drinking and drugs survey, the NHS and the Government would not be able to understand the habits and attitudes of young people and how these have changed during the pandemic. We are therefore extremely grateful to all those schools and pupils that give up their valuable time and resources to take part.”

More information about the SDD survey can be found on the NHS Digital website.

View the 2018 report

To find out more about the survey contact Ipsos Mori: 0808 101 2066


How the survey works

  • Approximately 1,000 schools are randomly selected across England and invited to take part in the survey in the autumn term.
  • Selected schools are sent a letter, then later contacted by Ipsos MORI to organise appointments.
  • In each participating school, three class groups are selected at random to take part. Letters about the survey are given to selected pupils to take home or sent to the parents.
  • Survey takes place during one school period, under exam conditions, before the Christmas holidays. Schools have the option for Ipsos MORI interviewers to attend each class session to introduce the survey and supervise its completion or the survey can be administered by a teacher.
  • Survey data is analysed to produce the report which is released by NHS Digital in the summer.


NHS Digital is the national information and technology partner of the health and care system. Our team of information analysis, technology and project management experts create, deliver and manage the crucial digital systems, services, products and standards upon which health and care professionals depend. During the 2019/20 financial year, NHS Digital published 285 statistical reports. Our vision is to harness the power of information and technology to make health and care better.

Follow us on Twitter: @NHSDigital

Photo by Amritanshu Sikdar on Unsplash

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