A recent report published this year revealed that teenage drinking in this country has taken a drastic dip, with “teenage boozing” dropping quicker in the UK than anywhere else in Europe, indicating what is possibly thought to be a significant “cultural shift” among youths in the UK. The World Health Organisation (WHO) found that while 50.3% of teen males in England drank weekly in 2002, just 10% were found to drink as regularly in 2014.
Interestingly, these stark findings appear not to be an anomaly, with young people receiving praise for being “way ahead” of older generations for being more conscientious about alcohol consumption. Indeed, a separate study by Sheffield University released in September this year found that the number of 11 to 15 year-olds who have ever had a full alcoholic drink fell from 61% in 2002, to 44% in 2016 across England. In fact, abstaining from alcohol is becoming a more mainstream habit across millennials, with another study finding that millennial levels of abstention have increased from 9% in 2015 to 17% just a decade later. Numerous research bodies across the public-health sector have inferred that openly admitting to being a non-drinker has become more accepted, while behaviours such as heavy drinking is becoming less normalised.
While this trend has warmly been accepted, with leading charitable organisations such as drug and alcohol organisation Addaction calling it ‘really positive news’, there is certainly widespread uncertainty as to what has specifically prompted this. For a long time, the reputability of young people for their drinking habits has been tarnished. Society has often used young people as a convenient scapegoat, demonising them for the menacing and prominent binge-drinking culture which they were the exclusive members of – or so society thought. Young people have featured time and time again across various national newspapers, with pieces of sensationalist journalism all but despairing at the hopeless generation of binge-drinking, rowdy party animals. Now, however, it would seem that young people across the UK are actually at the forefront of a movement that encourages mindful drinking.
It’s not to say that young people have completely abandoned alcohol altogether – although teetotalism is, again, rising among the UK’s youth – but it is unmistakable that young people are now willing to recognise their own limits and avoid drinking to excess. In doing so, young people also further avoid the risk of mental and physical health implications that come with this in the long-run. By being more sensible in their drinking habits, and not exceeding the maximum 14 units a week guidelines outlined by the NHS, our young people are taking the right steps to lessen the chances of cancers of the throat, mouth and breast, strokes, heart and liver diseases, and damage to the nervous system, as well as mental health issues including depression and anxiety. Young people are ceasing to become the target of extensive criticism about their “risky” behaviour, and have instead emerged as society’s advocates for a more conscious and careful approach to consuming alcohol.
The UK’s youth are not the party animals and crazed drinkers that society has so often painted them to be. Young people are leading by way of example: they are still able to go out, have fun, and enjoy themselves, but do so in a way that is not a danger to themselves or those around them. This is something that, perhaps, even the older generation can learn something from, while realising that our young people of the UK aren’t the irresponsible, reckless millennials they have often been branded as.