Alcohol health literacy in school aged children – how to test what they know

First published: 30 March 2019 | Last updated: 20 May 2019

Alcohol health literacy in school aged children- how to test what they know

Kathryn Woods-Townsend1,2,3, Julia Sinclair4 and  Marcus Grace1

1 Southampton Education School, Faculty of Social and Human Sciences, University of Southampton , 2 Human Development and Health Unit, Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton, 3 NIHR Southampton Nutrition Biomedical Research Centre, 4 Psychiatry, Clinical and Experimental Sciences Unit, Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton

Corresponding Author:

Kathryn Woods-Townsend

Southampton Education School

B32, rm 2093


University of Southampton

SO17 1BJ

No conflict of interest


A feasibility study to i) define and measure baseline aspects of ‘alcohol health literacy’ among school children, and ii) use this data to begin developing a personalised computer-based teaching activity which raises students’ awareness of their response to  alcohol related cues.

Design/ Setting/ Participants

LifeLab is an innovative educational intervention being piloted in Southampton. It is designed to enable 11-16 year old students to discover first hand, how their lifestyles lay the foundations for a healthier life. This was a cross sectional study consisting of a survey and simple computerised task in school aged children in years 8, 9 and 10 integrated into the LifeLab setting. We developed an iPad app to test accuracy and speed of recognition of 20 common brands (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic). All students also completed a brief questionnaire asking about knowledge of alcohol related harms, relative strengths of alcoholic drinks and exposure to alcohol use with family and peer group

Findings and Conclusions

256 students took part in the feasibility study from 6 different schools with mixed socio economic backgrounds. Usable responses were obtained for 238 questionnaire responses and 197 brand recognition responses. Liver (62%), brain (30%) and heart (28%) damage were the most commonly cited causes of alcohol harm as a free text response. Only 7% of students correctly identified the relative strengths whiskey/ wine or beer, the majority (70%) assuming that the single shot of whiskey had more alcohol in than the glass of wine or beer. Students own self reported drinking frequency correlated strongly (Pearson 0.332; p<0.001) with that of their peers, but not their family. Students engaged well with the brand recognition app, and of the alcoholic brands were most likely to correctly identify Fosters beer (93.9%) and WKD (73%). The study demonstrates a good face validity to students as a way of measuring alcohol health literacy.

Kathryn Woods-Townsend