Generation sober: why are millennials cutting back on alcohol?

Sep 7, 2018

young people in park

When I look back at my younger years, I spent a lot of my time meeting friends in pubs and bars. Whether or not you were drinking alcohol, it was a place to hang out and catch up with your closest friends - before the rise of Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp groups.

So is it any surprise that drinking rates among British adults are at their lowest in 18 years? With social media offering a new outlet for socialising, it seems the days of spending your week’s wages down the local are slowly falling behind us.

I think it’s fantastic that millennials are looking for alternatives to alcohol, but what exactly is the reason behind it? Why aren’t millennials following in the footsteps of their parents, and their parents’ parents?

It seems to boil down to a number of reasons. According to The Culture Trip, one of the biggest is that working out and mindfulness has superseded monetary status and materialism. Trend strategist Andrea Praet believes financial hardships are the reason for the shift in attitude. “It really grew legs as the recession hit in 2007. Drinking green juice, working out and looking after your body became a status symbol that was less ostentatious than parading around a Birkin bag.” It seems that millennials were born into a very trying era, one that saw these young people grow up in the middle of a recession and initial threats of terrorism. These factors, teamed with a low disposable income, have shaped them into being more pragmatic and responsible young adults who are taking control of their health as well as their future.

The second is that it appears attitudes towards alcohol are changing. According to The Guardian, “61% of Britons believe getting drunk is ‘uncool’, declining to 41% of 18-24s and 47% of those aged 25-34.” It’s no longer the ‘in’ thing to stumble home at 3 am and fall asleep hugging the toilet. It seems the new way of thinking is that alcohol should be enjoyed in small doses - if it at all - as more than a quarter of young people aged 16-24 do not drink, with 27% of Brits saying they are drinking more low-alcoholic drinks or none at all compared to a few years ago. This change has also opened the door for a new wave of ingenious non-alcoholic drinks that offer mature flavours and drinking experiences for non-drinkers, finally moving away from the juvenile sickly sweet fruit juice and sugary pop alternatives that tee-totals have had to grin and bear for years.

The Telegraph also offers a third reason as to why millennials aren’t drinking like the older generations: they don’t need it to make themselves feel better. Experts describe Generation X as having a ‘stiff upper lip problem’, using alcohol and drugs to hide their feelings. But millennials? They are more inclined to talk about their problems and speak more openly about mental health in a more accepting society. Another win in my eyes!

The fourth reason is the health benefits, or moreover the opinion that taking care of your health is cool. According to a study by Eventbrite, “70% of millennials are more likely to brag about how long it’s been since they last drank alcohol than how much they last drank”. I’m not surprised by this, as it must be hard to oppose when you live in a world where health experts are everywhere, often in the form of beautiful, toned Instagram models (even I can’t resist the lure). Rather than sleeping in and nursing a hangover all weekend, leaving the alcohol behind gives millennials the time to take part in enriching activities and take control of their health. What’s not to love?

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