Drinking ‘not important’ to two thirds of young people
July 16, 2015
UNITED KINGDOM – Most young people either do not view drinking as important to their social life or are shunning alcohol altogether, according to a think-tank.
Demos said declining levels of alcohol consumption among the 16-24 age group represent both a cultural shift and positive progress by successive governments in getting drinking levels down.
The think-tank said the time youngsters spend on social media and the internet has contributed to the decline, while other factors include them being less able to afford alcohol than 10 years ago.
Its survey also found that two in five (41%) young people questioned said they think alcohol is more important to their parents’ lives than to their own.
The think-tank said that while it has been suggested that a rise in migrant populations from non-drinking cultures are behind the fall, this only accounted for a third (31%) of the rise in teetotallers.
It found that one in five (19%) youngsters said they do not drink, while two-thirds (66%) said it was not important to their social lives.
The research echoes official figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) earlier this year, which found the proportion of teetotal 16 to 24-year-olds increased from 19% in 2005 to 27% in 2013.
But Demos said serious problems with drinking remain among many youths, particularly in certain areas of the country, and young people with a history of alcohol abuse in their family continue to be vulnerable to developing unhealthy relationships with alcohol themselves.
When asked why they think drinking has gone down amongst their age group, the 1,000 young people questioned also cited alcohol being harder to get hold of for those who are under-age, along with negative portrayals in the media of anti-social behaviour linked to drinking.
Helena Conibear, from the Alcohol Education Trust, said most children, teachers and parents overestimate the number of teenagers who are smoking, drinking, getting drunk and engaging in risky behaviours and research from behaviour change experts suggests that highlighting the actual figures can help to bolster resistance from peer pressure by showing that those who resist are part of the majority, not the minority.
The report’s author and head of citizenship at Demos, Jonathan Birdwell, said: “These findings strengthen our understanding of a phenomenon that has taken many of us by surprise.
“They reveal the potential of public policy to both encourage and complement cultural changes, to make a real difference in challenging harmful behaviour.
“But while the trends are pointing in a positive direction, we cannot ignore the fact that there is still a relatively significant minority of young people indulging in hazardous binge drinking – which is damaging to their health, their career prospects and to society as a whole.
“It is important for us now to build on these insights and determine the best means of directing limited public funds to tackle this pernicious issue at the root cause.”
A spokesman for the Portman Group, which represents the alcohol industry, said: “This is welcome and much needed research into understanding why Britain’s young people are leading the way in making informed choices about alcohol.
“Over the last decade, the official government figures show a significant and sustained decline in underage drinking and alcohol-related harms among young people in the UK, and to continue these positive trends we need to know which approaches are effective.
“These findings are further proof that information and life skills education alongside strict enforcement on underage sales are making the difference – a combination that the drinks industry will continue to fund and deliver by working in partnership with national and local government.”
Rosanna O’Connor, director of the alcohol, drugs and tobacco division at Public Health England, said: “The decline in harmful drinking in under-18s is promising, as is young people’s growing awareness of the harms of frequent drinking, which we know continues to be a serious issue in adults.
“Current levels of harm caused by alcohol remain unacceptably high, and much of this harm is preventable. We need further action at a national and local level to implement the most effective evidence-based policies, and Public Health England will continue to provide leadership and support to reduce the devastating harm that alcohol can cause to individuals, families and communities.”