public health

Fewer Filipino youth drinking, smoking – UP study

Ryan Macasero

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Fewer Filipino youth drinking, smoking – UP study
The 2021 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Study 'point to a positive change in young people’s non-sexual risk behaviors,' says the University of the Philippines Population Institute

Fewer Filipino youth are drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes, according to the 2021 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Study (YAFS5) of the University of the Philippines Population Institute (UPPI), which it presented on Friday, October 14.

About 10,949 randomly selected youth aged 15 to 24 from over 900 randomly selected barangays in the country participated in the comprehensive 2021 study. 

“Of every 10 young adult Filipinos, only three are currently drinking, one is smoking, and close to none is using illegal drugs. These are among the key findings of the 2021 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Study (YAFS5), revealing that substance use among young people has generally declined in 2021,” the UPPI said in a press statement.

The study showed that 12% of the youth respondents said they smoked cigarettes, down from 20% in 2013.

Source: University of the Philippines Population Institute

Young Filipinos who drank alcohol decreased to 29% in 2021 from 27% in 2013.

“Some 45% of drinkers said they were drinking less during the pandemic, while 65% said they want to stop drinking,” the study said.

The study also showed that “the share of youth drug users was almost nil (0.1%) in 2021, significantly down from the 2.4% recorded in 2002.”

Source: University of the Philippines Population Institute

While the researchers did not specify the reason for the drop in the numbers, the UPPI mentioned the increase in cost of these vices due to the sin tax law in its media statement.

“The government and civil  society groups have taken bold action against excessive substance use, most prominently  through the Sin Tax Law of 2012, which aims, in part, to curb the consumption of tobacco and  alcohol. Reducing tobacco use and harmful use of alcohol is also among the global targets under  the Sustainable Development Goal 3, which concerns the promotion of health and wellbeing for  all,” the UPPI said.

Broken down by region, the study found that Central Visayas had the highest number of youth drinkers and smokers, with 48% of youth saying that they consumed alcohol.

The study did not release a specific number for smokers by region, but said Central and Western Visayas had the most youth smokers. 

“In all, the latest data point to a positive change in young people’s non-sexual risk behaviors. Some emerging health risks, however, are worth examining. These include vaping, which has been tried by 16% of youth,” UPPI said.

The YAFS has been monitoring young Filipinos’ use of substances, including alcohol, nicotine, and illicit drugs since 1994.

HIV awareness drops

HIV/AIDS awareness among young Filipinos has also dropped during the pandemic, UPPI researchers found.

According to the study, awareness of HIV/AIDS is at 76% in 2021, a 19% drop from 1994, when awareness was at its highest at 95%.

Among those who have heard of HIV/AIDS, researchers tested their knowledge as to how one can contract HIV/AIDS.

More than half, or 52% of youth, incorrectly said that a person can get HIV by sharing food with an HIV-positive individual.

“About two in five, on the other hand, did not believe that a healthy-looking person can have HIV,” UPPI said.

Across regions, HIV awareness is highest in Central Visayas at 87%, and lowest in BARMM at 39%. (READ: Cebu’s HIV problem is also a drug problem)

“Low awareness and insufficient knowledge of HIV and/or AIDS can stall efforts to arrest the  number of HIV infections in the Philippines, which has the fastest-growing HIV epidemic in the  Asia-Pacific region,” UPPI said.

According to latest figures, at least 115,100 Filipinos were living with HIV as of 2020. “Should the trend persist, the number of HIV cases is estimated  to reach over 330,000 by 2030,” UPPI said. 

Civil society organizations have been promoting the use of condoms and other pharmaceutical prevention methods, such as pRep and PEP, to stem the number of new infections. 

Antiretroviral medications can also help treat those living with HIV live longer lives.

The complete YAFS5 study is expected to be released early 2023. –  

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Nobuhiko Matsunaka


Ryan Macasero

Ryan covers social welfare for Rappler. He started at Rappler as social media producer in 2013, and later took on various roles for the company: editor for the #BalikBayan section, correspondent in Cebu, and general assignments reporter in the Visayas region. He graduated from California State University, East Bay, with a degree in international studies and a minor in political science. Outside of work, Ryan performs spoken word poetry and loves attending local music gigs. Follow him on Twitter @ryanmacasero or drop him leads for stories at