Back to overview

In Switzerland, 5.8% of children aged under 15 live in a family where one or both parents show heavy alcohol consumption. 31.3% are raised in an environment where the parents consume products containing nicotine (e.g. tobacco products, e‑cigarettes) on a daily basis. The proportion of children whose parents make heavy consumption of illegal drugs (e.g. cannabis, cocaine, heroin) is low (1.8%). Some children’s parents show multiple heavy substance consumption. This is the case, in particular, with alcohol and nicotine (1.9%).

This indicator is part of the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) Monitoring System for Addiction and Noncommunicable Diseases (MonAM).


Children from families with heavy substance consumption

 Number and proportion of children affected

Source: FSO – Swiss Health Survey (SHS)
Study: Hümbelin O., Läser J., Kessler D. (2020). “Kinder aus Familien mit risikoreichem Substanzkonsum”. Berner Fachhochschule: Bern.
N: estimated total number of childrenIn the Venn diagram, the totals may vary slightly from the sums of individual items due to rounding.

This indicator shows the proportion of children who live in a household where one or both parents show heavy substance consumption.

Children’s physical and emotional development can be adversely affected by parental addiction. For this reason, children from families with heavy substance consumption are an important target group for prevention and support measures.

Studies show that children from families with parental heavy substance consumption have an increased risk of developing addiction problems themselves as adults. Within the family setting, substance consumption-related attitudes and behaviours are largely passed on from parents to their children (parental example). In addition, genetic factors may lead to more frequent occurrence of heavy substance consumption in certain families.

The burdens for children vary widely, depending on the particular substance heavily consumed by parents. Summing of indicator values across all substances is therefore not recommended. Caution should be exercised when comparing the values for different substances.


The data for this indicator is based on the study by Hümbelin et al. (2020). In this study, the number and proportion of children whose parents show heavy substance consumption are estimated on the basis of the Swiss Health Survey (SHS). In the SHS, 22,134 people aged over 15 were surveyed on their health behaviour. Among the respondents are 4,517 parents with children under 15 in their household. Based on their responses, it was possible to describe the situation of 7,743 children. The prevalence is the proportion of children with parents showing heavy substance consumption, in relation to all the children included in the estimation. Parental substance consumption was classified as “heavy” according to the following criteria:

Alcohol: heavy chronic or episodic alcohol consumption, as defined by the WHO:

  • Chronic heavy alcohol consumption: average daily alcohol intake of at least 20 g (2 or more standard units) in women and at least 40 g (4 or more standard units) in the previous 12 months
  • Heavy episodic alcohol consumption (so-called binge drinking): consumption of at least 4 (for women) or 5 (for men) standard units on one occasion at least once a week in the previous 12 months


  • Consumption of traditional tobacco products (cigarettes, cigars, pipes, cigarillos) equivalent to at least daily cigarette smoking
  • At least daily consumption of heated tobacco products or e-cigarettes

Illegal substances:

  • Consumption of Ecstasy, heroin or other drugs (e.g. amphetamine, LSD) at least once in the previous 12 months
  • Consumption of cocaine at least once in the previous 30 days
  • Consumption of cannabis several times a week

To estimate the number of children affected, prevalence rates were combined with data from the Swiss Population and Households Statistics (STATPOP). According to this census, there were 1,269,055 children aged under 15 resident in Switzerland in 2017. Further information on the method used can be found in the study by Hümbelin et al. (2020:12–23).

Sources, references and additional information

Sources: Federal Statistical Office (Swiss Health Survey)
References: Hümbelin O., Läser J., Kessler D. (2020). “Kinder aus Familien mit risikoreichem Substanzkonsum”. Berner Fachhochschule: Bern (study, in German).
Additional information:
- Bundesamt für Gesundheit (2020). Kinder aus Familien mit risikoreichem Substanzkonsum. Bern, 2020 (factsheet, in German).
- Klein M., Thomasius R., Moesgen D. (2017). Kinder aus suchtbelasteten Familien. Bundesministerium für Gesundheit: Berlin (publication, in German).

Media enquiries

Federal Office of Public Health FOPH
Tel. +41 58 462 95 05

Last updated