A little over a century ago, America was parched like the Sahara Desert. In 1920, prohibition went into effect, and alcohol became an illegal substance overnight. The making, importing, transporting, or selling of alcohol was strictly verboten in the US. However, Americans are a uniquely inventive people, and as soon as the 18th Amendment to the Constitution went into effect, bootlegging began in earnest. Here we are just shy of 103 years, and Americans are again going dry – but this time voluntarily. Yes, Virginia, it seems that booze is not so cool anymore.
Alcohol Consumption Hits the Skids
It remains unclear how much alcohol consumption abated during those long 13 years of prohibition. One could call it an early 20th-century version of “Don’t ask; don’t tell.” However, today there is plenty of research showing alcohol is not as popular as it used to be. First, young people aren’t drinking as much as their older counterparts did when they were their age. This downward trend began in the aughts and has continued.
A 2020 study published in the Journal of the American Association (JAMA) found that the percentage of 18–22-year-old college students who used alcohol dropped. In 2021, Gallup reported 60% of US adults drank alcoholic beverages, which decreased from the 65% reported in 2019. Yet another study found Millennials bought more alcohol than Gen Z consumers. The reason listed by Gen Zs for their disinterest in alcohol was its “impact on their mood, level of alertness, and even image on social media.” Meanwhile, Numerator reports, “Both consumer groups are more deliberate drinkers, with 4 out of 10 mindful about how much they’re drinking and 3 out of 10 actively limiting their intake.”
More and more medical studies show the deleterious effects of booze, which includes an increased risk in heart issues and strokes. In March of this year, a UK study found alcohol consumption shrinks the brain. This data bolsters the finding that a health factor is involved in at least some of the decisions by many young people who choose not to imbibe.
There are also cultural factors influencing college-age women to join the abstinence movement. One is called the Sober Girl Society, which touts “The sisterly safe space for sober and sober curious women who are changing their relationship with alcohol.” The Society’s home page asks: “Ready to break up with booze?” It should come as no surprise then that Google searches for “non-alcoholic beer and non-alcoholic drink” hit a record level in 2022.
Who’s Boozing It Up?
The demographics of alcohol consumption are broadly divided along gender and economic income levels. College-educated women over 55 are the big wine drinkers, while men between 18-34 prefer spirits. Meanwhile, beer consumption is heavily favored by non-college-educated men. Some interesting trivia: Gen Z drinkers prefer blush wines, Cognac, and cordials.
Concerning specific liquors, vodka is far and away the number one bestseller for those who choose booze. Next are pre-mixed cocktails, and third, fourth, and fifth are Whiskey, Tequila, and Rum, respectively.
Although young Americans may be snubbing alcohol, one should not be left with the impression that they are playing the role of goodie-two-shoes. The JAMA study showed marijuana use is up, and then there’s polysubstance use, which is a mishmash of drugs and alcohol. As the JAMA study noted, “More than three-fourths of those with both alcohol use disorder and marijuana use disorder reported past-year prescription drug use (78.2%) and illicit drug use (77.7%); 62.2% reported prescription drug misuse.”
Thus there may be a higher volume of apple cider consumed when the clock strikes 12 and 2022 turns to 2023, but don’t believe for a second it’s because the younger generation is more virtuous than the last – they merely reach for different mind-altering substances.
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