Tuesday 22 January 2019
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huffingtonpost - 3 month ago

Young People Aren t Getting Drunk Anymore – And They Might Just Be On To Something

A recent study added further weight to the claim that millennials may very well be the worst generation the world has ever seen. The collective crime now being committed by young people is that not only are they not eating potatoes, they re not even getting sloshed anymore.Between 2005 and 2015, the proportion of young people between the ages of 16 and 24 not drinking grew from 18% to 29%, driven largely by a rise in lifetime abstainers from 9% in 2005 to 17% in 2015. Take a little look at the Health Survey for England data used by the study, however, and rather than this acting as definitive proof of the Generation Sensible label that has been conferred to this age group, we see that non-drinking has increased across almost every age group and binge drinking is still most commonly seen among 16-24 year olds. Additionally, though young people and millennials seem interchangeable these days, if we look at the upper end of the millennial age bracket (25-34), they are very much still drinking.I am confident in saying that, despite the increase in non-drinking, a sizeable proportion of 16-24 year olds still like to get wrecked. Part of me was concerned that the pressure faced by young people today means they no longer experience the right of passage I undertook at 16 of loitering outside Costcutter, brazenly intercepting customers to request the addition of age-restricted items to their shopping list, enduring repeated rejection, finally chancing upon the biggest legend that High Wycombe has ever spawned who breaks a cheeky, knowing grin and assents, getting your bounty and triumphantly marching with your chums to a park to ceremoniously quaff the three-litre bottle of Scrumpy. I have had conversations with a handful of 16 year olds and whilst I don t expect this to be recreated step-by-step at least some of that experience is still taking place.For me, my relationship with alcohol has undergone an evolution much the same as that of my peers. The park-era gave way to: the heady early pub drinking days of sixth form, the abhorrent excess of university, buying my first bottle of wine without a screwcap, the occasional, overly-optimistic excess of the mid-20s, the prolonged recovery times of the mid-20s, the discovery of hobbies in the latter 20s, the enjoyment of drink with food, the sanctity and salvation of Sundays - not through any religious ceremony - but purely by being able to put a wash on, not hating myself and having some semblance of mental preparedness for Monday morning.I have a creeping suspicion that it s been an awfully long, expensive and potentially avoidable journey, and think things may have been easier if I d had the wisdom and foresight back when I was 16. What if I d discovered hobbies earlier? What if 16-24 year olds today are actually on to a bit of a trick and see alcohol for what it really is: an indulgent luxury a crutch for us to detach from ourselves and dull our senses. Yes, alcohol may be a coping mechanism and a substitute for something larger but the spectrum of how it is used in this way is vast, and along that spectrum is a healthy attitude to alcohol. It isn t what I immediately reach for when the going gets tough, but sometimes I don t have time to go for an hour-long run or bake a cake, and I hate to say it but a beer can provide that instant relief. Certainly, I now see no benefits to getting absolutely blotto and I can safely say that not a single genuinely meaningful moment has taken place while I have been but a fair few of them have after a few bottles of wine around a dinner table.The Generation Sensible label is flawed and the reality a little more nuanced. The context is certainly different than when I was 16 and it s hard to deny that the world teenagers are growing up into and the challenges they face are much more complex. Perhaps when the basics of work, housing, security are harder to come by, they have had to think about and make choices about what the really important things are and what to prioritise. But they aren t alone in assessing their relationship with a we all do it at one time or another, especially on those mornings after we ve had a bit too much. I respect those who decide never to touch the stuff, but if a teen ever approaches me outside a Costcutter, I won t buy them the booze, but I ll be glad they asked.

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