Young people’s perception of alcohol has been changing since the early 2000s. More young people than ever before are choosing to stay alcohol-free for longer. For example, Movendi International has reported about this trend in Sweden, the United States (U.S.), Germany, Scotland and Japan.
Recently, the Central Association for Alcohol and Drug Information (C.A.N.) in Sweden found that in 2021, only 13% of ninth graders reported having ever consumed alcohol. This is a historic low compared to the 1991 figure which was at 51%.
Denormalization of alcohol use and normalization of alcohol-free lifestyle
Researchers have been trying to answer the question as to why the young generation, specifically in the western world, are reducing their alcohol use and are staying alcohol-free longer. One of the major reasons is the process of denormalization of alcohol use and the normalization of being alcohol-free. For example, due to denormalization of alcohol, being alcohol intoxicated or binge alcohol use is not considered in a positive light by today’s youth anymore.
Along with this change, being alcohol-free is becoming a more accepted norm.
Today’s youth are more health conscious
The fact that today’s young people are more health conscious plays a major role in the breaking down of entrenched alcohol norms. The young generations is ditching booze for better health and well-being. Recent studies have shown that young people express concerns about risks to mental health and long-term physical health related to alcohol use.
And this is with good reason. C.A.N. reported that 9th graders who lived alcohol-free compared to those who consumed alcohol experienced:
- better self-rated health,
- fewer psychosomatic problems,
- better academic results, and
- higher scores on a scale that measures pro-social behavior.
More reasons why young people increasingly choose alcohol-free
Many young people today think about their future in ways that previous generations have not. From climate change to planning a career and being able to afford a house, young people are aware their futures are uncertain. Therefore, today’s youth feel the need to have more control of their lives and be responsible earlier on in life. They do not want to jeopardise their futures with the conequences of alcohol intoxication.
As Movendi International previously reported, one of the major reasons why Millennials choose the alcohol-free way of life was the economic drain caused by alcohol.
The increased connectivity via digital media is another reason for today’s young people to stay alcohol-free longer. This works in two ways.
- Youth don’t want to be embarassed by being caught on social media being intoxicated.
- Youth are concerned their current/future employers may see that.
- Digital media offers social alternatives to young people that are less likely to involve alcohol, such as video gaming and other digital activities.
Different parenting styles have changed young people’s perception of alcohol as well. Parents can montor and reach their children more easily in today’s world through mobile phones. Today’s youth spend more time with their parents as well. This is potentially leading to more communicative relationships, and reducing risk factors to engage in alcohol use or the attempt to using alcohol as way to rebel.
Whichever the reasons are for the young generation to increasingly stay alcohol-free longer, quit alcohol consumption, or reduce alcohol use, it appears this trend is here to stay. Even the alcohol and hospitality industry are adapting to this trend and increasing their alcohol-free portfolios. More businesses are popping up which are alcohol-free as they attempt to cater to the young generation’s increasing demand for alcohol-free environments, activities, and products.
For further reading
Big Focus on Alcohol-Free Lifestyle
Listen to Movendi International’s Alcohol Issues Podcast Episode
“Changing the alcohol norm: The potential of digital communities and alcohol-free challenges”
Accent: “Young Swedes’ drinking continues to decline” [Translated from Swedish]
The Conversation: “Why are young people drinking less than their parents’ generation did?“