16- 24-year-olds are boozing less, but is the UK’s drinking culture really changing?
Going into university as a non-drinker, Saranda Sherifi struggled to meet people during freshers’ week. “Drinking was a massive part, to the extent that it was difficult to make friends,” she says, recalling a time she decided to go out to eat alone instead of going on a night out.
Despite Sherifi’s experience of feeling alienated, young people are drinking less booze. Almost 30 per cent of 16- to 24-year-olds said they didn’t drink alcohol, according to a study by the journal BMC Medicine, which also found that the number of lifetime abstainers has increased from 9 per cent in 2005 to 17 per cent in 2015.
Dubbed “generation sensible”, 16- to 24-year-olds are using less drugs, are less likely to smoke and are less likely to be arrested. This seems all the more strange given this cohort is expected to be the booziest of age groups: from rebellious teenagers to freshers attending university parties, to twenty-somethings enjoying their glory years before real hangovers start to kick in and you’re frowned at for drinking warm cans in parks.
“The increase in young people who choose not to drink alcohol suggests that this behaviour maybe becoming more acceptable,” says the study’s lead researcher, Dr Linda Ng Fat. From austerity to religion, the reasons for teetotalism among young people vary, with the BMC study admitting that the underlying factors driving the increased number of abstainers are “unknown”.
Sherifi “didn’t have a taste for alcohol”, but for others like Aida, also a student, the decision was health-driven. “I’m very conscious of the impact it is going to have on my health,” she says. “If I can minimise the nasty habits in my youth and feel the benefits in my older years, then I will take that.”
Ever since the term “millennial” was coined, the media has been obsessed with how this avocado-endeared, image-infatuated group stands outside of traditional values. So perhaps it should not be such a surprise that a generation known for thinking differently are also doing so when it comes to drinking.
“There’s less acceptance of drunkenness, behaviour that people used to see as culturally normal in the boomer generation,” says Dr Tony Rao of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. “Young people [also] have a different way of social cohesion through social media, and they’ve also got better information about the harms from alcohol.”
Despite a clear shift in attitudes, some find that university culture can be overbearingly alcoholic, particularly in the first year. “I don’t see drinking and going out at night as that important to making friends, but I think it definitely is a peer pressure thing,” says Sherifi. “I have friends who have said they would just go drinking on a night out just to make friends.”
Whilst Aida doesn’t struggle to socialise with both drinking and non-drinking friends, she says that in her first year, she often found that, “you have to have alcohol there to break …read more
Source:: New Statesman