Young people are increasingly turning their backs on booze – with almost a third teetotal, according to a shock new study.
Researchers found young people in England aren’t just drinking less alcohol, more of them are never taking up drinking at all – and the trend is so widespread it is becoming “mainstream.”
Researchers at University College London, who analysed figures from the annual Health Survey for England, discovered that the proportion of 16 to 24-year-olds who don’t drink alcohol increased from 18 per cent in 2005 to 29 per cent in 2015.
They found the trend to be largely due to an increasing number of people who had never been drinkers, up from just one in 11 (nine per cent) in 2005 to one in six (17 per cent) in 2015.
There were also “significant” decreases in the number of young people who drank above recommended limits – down from 43 per cent to 28 per cent – or who binge drank, reduced from 27 per cent to 18 per cent.
More young people were also engaging in weekly abstinence – soaring from 35 per cent to 50 per cent, according to the findings published in BMC Public Health.
Study corresponding author Dr Linda Ng Fat said: “Increases in non-drinking among young people were found across a broad range of groups, including those living in northern or southern regions of England, among the white population, those in full-time education, in employment and across all social classes and healthier groups.
“That the increase in non-drinking was found across many different groups suggests that non-drinking may becoming more mainstream among young people which could be caused by cultural factors.”
Dr Ng Fat said: “These trends are to be welcomed from a public-health standpoint. Factors influencing the shift away from drinking should be capitalised on going forward to ensure that healthier drinking behaviours in young people continue to be encouraged.
“The increase in young people who choose not to drink alcohol suggests that this behaviour maybe becoming more acceptable, whereas risky behaviours such as binge drinking may be becoming less normalised.”
But increases in non-drinking were not found among ethnic minorities, those with poor mental health and smokers – suggesting that the risky behaviours of smoking and alcohol continue to cluster, according to the researchers.
The UCL team examined data on 9,699 people aged 16 to 24 collected as part of the Health Survey for England 2005-2015, an annual, nationally representative survey looking at changes in the health and lifestyles of people across England.
They analysed the proportion of non-drinkers among social demographic and health sub-groups, along with alcohol units consumed by those that did drink and levels of binge drinking.