By Nathan Hine
It is a cliché that young people party hard, drink heavily and are so-called ‘free spirits.’ It appears this age-old cliché is wrong with young people turning away from drunken nightclubs, so why is this happening and is this part of a wider cultural shift?
Researchers at the University of Kent led by Adam Burgess show that there has been a dramatic decline in alcohol consumption among younger people with an increase in moderation and abstinence. This, they state, is surprising in historical terms and has been cast as indicating the emergence of a new moderating cohort, dubbed ‘generation sensible.’
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Each generation has its own challenges, and this generation has experienced a huge host of changes in Britain from austerity to social media, Brexit, COVID and the social anxiety associated with its aftermath.
So it is no wonder that alcohol consumption has declined with increasing social anxiety pushing people away from social situations, preferring not to spend time in situations where they feel uncomfortable.
This reduced alcohol consumption is not necessarily a bad thing with young people seeking to move away from a party-induced culture of drink and drugs and have greater awareness of health and wellbeing, seeking not to replicate the mistakes of their elders.
Hence, NHS Statistics on Obesity, Physical Activity and Diet in 2020 show that Gen Z (19-24) were more physically active than those aged 25-34 and 35-44. While this is to be expected to a certain degree, it could be indicative of a healthier lifestyle given the relative high levels of fitness that you would expect from all three age groups.
In addition, reduced alcohol consumption by Gen Z individuals could indicate that they want to do something productive with their lives which has been made all the more acute given the unjust and damaged world they currently live in.
So instead of spending their time frequenting clubs until 4 am, young people are increasingly spending their time helping to forge a path for a better future. This it one of the reasons why alcohol consumption has dropped with the ‘totally wasted’ culture being rejected in increasing numbers by the current generation of young people.
As such, Gen Z individuals feel an increasing sense of responsibility to help ‘cure’ the planet of the current ills, which on the one hand, is positive as Gen Z individuals are care more about the social, cultural and political processes than their immediate predecessors. But on the other hand, this indicates a rise in social and cultural ills and shows that the people in power are not doing a good enough job in ‘solving’ them.
At the same time, this change in habit by young people is having some negative consequences as with people not getting drunk at bars and nightclubs in the same numbers, this has sought to increase social anxiety at social events.
Hence, social anxiety is highest among Gen Z individuals compared with their older peers with just 45% of Gen Z-ers reporting very good or excellent mental health in the American Psychological Association.
So while it is positive that there is a move away from a drinking culture in the UK, there is a social cost to Gen Z-ers with a decline in a nightclub culture leading to an increase in social anxiety, meaning they will need to build up their social resilience later in life.
However, there is a newfound sense of common endeavour by young people today with many deciding to spend their times as active agents in the world around us, determined to tackle the issues in the damaged and unjust world in which we live in.
Also, alcohol consumption continues to plague modern Britain with a high number of heavy drinkers posing to be an attributing factor in a whole host of crimes from vandalism, road traffic collisions and even more serious offences.
Health and wellbeing is also a consideration for Gen Z individuals deciding to reduce their alcohol consumption full in the knowledge that a heavy drinking culture has had detrimental effects on previous generations.
So while there are some social issues being reflected by a decline in alcohol consumption among Gen Z-ers, this change in cultural attitudes is a positive one with young people determined to make a positive difference in the world they inhabit. So regardless of the revolving door in Westminster, young people are determined to make real change with Gen Z individuals changing the face of social behaviour in Britain whether the older generation like it or not.
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