Dry is the new high

Christine Humphreys
by Christine Humphreys
Published: October 05, 2022 Last updated: August 12, 2023
Three friends socialising at a table
Dry is the new high among young people who are shunning alcohol, researchers have found.
Statistics suggest that Generation Z – defined by the researchers as those aged 16 to 25 – are more likely to be teetotal than previous generations.
The drinking culture seen as a rite of passage in universities and among young professionals, and the ability to play hard and ‘hold your drink’, seems no longer relevant to young adults.
A report published by the BBC cites UK research from 2019 that showed 16-to-25-year-olds were the most likely to be teetotal, with 26% not drinking, compared to the least likely generation (55-to-74-year-olds), 15% of whom didn’t drink.
Since then, it’s believed that the global covid pandemic and subsequent national lockdowns have allowed young adults fewer opportunities to develop drinking habits.
Of those who do drink alcohol, it seems they do so less frequently. Statistics among Europeans show a large percentage drink only once a month.
According to the BBC report, factors underpinning this cultural shift include being more conscious of their health and well being.
Generation Z has less disposable income and more interest in spending what they have on ‘experiences’ and tangible possessions. In the ’70s your weekends were watching football, going to the pub and falling flat drunk at a night club disco.
It seems generation Z also worries more about how they appear in social media if they let their hair down.
Google research quoted by the BBC shows that 41% of Gen Zers associate alcohol with “vulnerability”, “anxiety” and even “abuse”; while 60% of UK Gen Zers associate drinking with a loss of control – almost double those who do not. The spate of drink-spiking in bars and clubs may also serve a deterrent, especially for women.
According to the same Google research, 49% of Gen Z say their online image is always at the back of their mind when they go out socialising and drinking.
The BBC reports that this year, the financial institution Deloitte asked almost 15,000 Gen Zers around the world about their most pressing concern.
The cost of living was their top worry (29%), ranking higher than climate change, unemployment, mental health and sexual harassment.
Almost half (46%) say they live pay cheque to pay cheque, and worry about covering their expenses, so to make ends meet, 43% have taken on either a part- or full-time job in addition to their primary job – 10% higher than millennials.
Young people are more likely to favour quality over quantity when choosing to drink.
Instead of sipping sugary alcopops all night as did millennials, now they might order a single cocktail – or mocktail – to last the night or spend their social time in coffee shops.
A late 2021 study found that over 21-year-olds in the US have little interest in wine and beer. Instead they prefer spirits or hard seltzers, champagne, and drinks with little or no alcohol.
The BBC suggests the rapid expansion of the non-alcoholic drink sector has sent a message to sober and sober-curious consumers that bars have something for everyone.
They say the no and low-alcohol category has grown consistently and the leading drinks market analysis firm IWSR predicts that, by 2024, the total volume consumption will grow by over 31%.
Christine Humphreys

About The Author

Christine Humphreys
Chris Humphreys is the co-founder of The Alcohol-Free Shop and She was a journalist for more years than she cares to remember. Ex-wife of an alcoholic, enthusiastic amateur musician and a passionate dog lover.