Less than half of teenagers choosing water in school

Current guidance on healthy diet and lifestyle is having a limited impact on behaviour change in 13-16 year olds according to new research1 from the Natural Hydration Council, which found that less than half of teenagers are actively choosing to drink water over other drinks during the school day.

The survey of 2,000 teenagers aged 13-16 years old revealed that despite a third reporting they based their drink choice on health, 15% of teenagers opt for sugar sweetened carbonated drinks and 1 in 10 are choosing squash. Teenagers in London (39%) and Wales (39%) were the least likely in the UK to choose water when in school.

Although the majority of UK teenagers (33%) said they bring drinks in from home, they were also more likely to opt for sugar sweetened squash or carbonated drinks rather than water when at home with their families.

Worryingly the results show that two thirds of teenagers don’t usually have any type of drink after doing sport or exercise, and a fifth  don’t have a drink at all during lunchtime.

The findings also point to notable differences between teenage boys and girls. Girls were more likely to choose water over other drinks during the school day (54% versus 42%), and were also more likely to base their drink choice on health (40% versus 30%).

Latest figures2 show that a third of children in the UK aged 11-15 are now overweight or obese, with prevalence expected to rise further. A NHC spokesperson commented, “The government’s childhood obesity action plan3 could be improved by actively encouraging water as a positive choice, rather than simply making it available. A fifth of teenagers said they would drink more water if there were reminders or prompts in school, and this is a really easy step towards a healthier diet and lifestyle that is currently overlooked.”

“Water is the healthiest way to hydrate, with no sugar or calories, yet a third of teenagers don’t know this. More needs to be done, particularly around educating teenage boys, to encourage real behaviour change.”

Dr Emma Derbyshire, Advisor to the Natural Hydration Council and Public Health Nutritionist added, “We must encourage healthy drinking habits alongside healthy eating in order to have a real impact. Parents can play a big role here, something as small as sending their teenagers off with a bottle of water in the morning sets the right tone for the rest of the day.”

“We also know that a lack of easy access to water is preventing almost half of teenagers from drinking more during school time, so we need to make sure that they can refill from a water fountain throughout the day or have easy access to bottled water in school canteens and vending machines”.


Notes to editors

  1. Research was conducted by Censuswide with 2,000 13-16 year olds who aren’t home schooled. Regional data for the England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland is available on request
  2. Health Survey for England, 2015 http://content.digital.nhs.uk/searchcatalogue?productid=23711&q=health+survey+for+england+2015&sort=Relevance&size=10&page=1#top
  3. Childhood Obesity: A Plan for Action, 2016 https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/546588/Childhood_obesity_2016__2__acc.pdf