Are Young People In The UK Really Drinking Less?
A recent survey claims that young people are drinking less, however is this really the case and why have we swapped White Lightening for flat whites?
Over the years people in Britain have been known for drinking quite a lot more than some of their European neighbours. The availability of cheap holidays abroad and even cheaper booze prices on those holidays culminated in what you would call a binge drinking culture among Brits in the early and mid noughties. Boozey Britain has also been long associated with binge drinking culture in towns and cities all over the UK, notorious with teenagers in parks on White Lightening and cheap vodka, football hooligans on the Artois and the wealthy elite with their expensive bottles of plonk. As a nation we love our booze, but is this still the case with the younger generation?
According to a recent study conducted by the BBC young people are drinking less. People aged between 16-24 are seemingly shunning alcohol in a dramatic reduction from the figures of the past decade or so. Across the country there has been a rise in the number of young adults who say they don’t drink at all with only 28% of the people asked in the survey admitting they thought they drank over the recommended weekly limits. While this particular study was extensive (10,000 young people took part in this survey), it is by no means as black and white as the figures may have you believe as there may be other new factors to take into account.
Above: British football fans are notorious for getting boozed up at international tournaments.
Obvious factors such as the increase in the price of alcohol have definitely contributed to the fact that young people are drinking less, especially if they are at University and budgeting comes into consideration. Also the fact that your local off license has probably closed down and will ID you for looking the younger side of 25. Gone are the days of picking up a bottle of cider at the age of 16, with tighter and more enforced age restrictions, booze is now a lot harder to come by if you are underage.
Furthermore, a lot of young people have become very health conscious and they do watch what they eat and drink in contrast to a few years ago where their predecessors won’t have taken the health benefits of not drinking quite so seriously. As we live in a society now that is constantly promoting good body images and is obsessed with Instagram and snapchat among others, it seems fair to say that this has also been a contributing factor to one of the many reasons young people are drinking less in order to reap the benefits image wise. Young people are now exposed to millions of influencers, wannabe celebrities and fitness fanatics posting selfies of what they deem to be ‘the perfect body’ creating low self esteem, serious body image issues and even suicide.
Above: Has gym selfie culture gone too far?
In other parts of Europe, when people go out to drink for example in France or Spain, it is extremely different to a night on the town in the UK. Young people in continental Europe are a lot more civilised and they go out to socialise rather than seeing how much alcohol they can handle until they have to be put into a taxi with a half eaten kebab and wrecked trainers. This also maybe another reason as to why there has been such a decline in binge drinking in the UK as young people are drinking less, they are now seeing that they don’t have to drink a lot or sometimes at all to have a great night.
A lot of young people now are more focused on doing well at college and getting the top university degrees, with a saturated jobs market and growing social pressures to succeed, younger people are realising that going out on 24 hour benders doesn’t necessarily give them the edge on the career ladder. More people now are opting for flat whites in their local cafes as oppose to the traditional pint and with more local pubs now closed than ever before, social interactions are changing.
Another thing that this particular survey does not take into account is alternatives that young people are turning to, instead of alcohol. As binge drinking and the consumption of alcohol have rapidly decreased in recent years, there has been an alarming rise of people turning to so called legal highs such as Spice and Monkey Dust instead of alcohol. These drugs can be obtained for as little as £1 a time which makes it hugely appealing to young people who may be on a tight budget, however the side effects are a lot more severe than just having a bit of a hangover the next day. A steady stream of legal highs have been banned across the UK due to these side effects which can sometimes render the user completely immobile and in zombie-like states.
Above: Spark the zoot up, more young people now choose to smoke weed instead of drinking alcohol.
It is also more socially accepted nowadays to smoke weed than it was say 10 years, and the accessibility is also a lot easier. For the teenagers who aren’t quite yet legally old enough to drink, getting your hands on a henry is 10 times easier than getting a crate from your local supermarket. Although this has probably been the case for some time.
Overall, there are several factors that could be contributing to the fact that young people are drinking less and there are still a lot of people out there that drink far too much on nights out and get carried away. Although there are definitely less binge drinkers out there in that age bracket than there used to be, there are still underlying problems that need to be sorted out such as the dangerous use of alternatives such as legal highs as well as drugs that are far more frowned upon. There definitely needs to be more research into just what young people are putting into their bodies as this survey is just the tip of the iceberg, however if the problems are uncovered they might be a lot easier to solve and raise awareness for future generations.