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Gen Z-ero tolerance: Brits born between 1995 and 2012 drink less alcohol than any other generation because ‘they’re worried about climate change, their health and cost of living crisis’

  • Researchers dubbed young people ‘generation sensible’ for curtailing drinking 
  • They surveyed around 520 Brits aged 18 to 25 who are moderate or non-drinkers 
  • Youngsters say they drink less because of academic pressures and higher costs

Gen Zers drink less alcohol than previous generations because they are worried about climate change, their careers and the cost of living crisis.

That’s according to a study that shows young people prefer to pursue leisure activities which prioritise their wellbeing and productivity like baking and yoga.

The results have prompted researchers to dub people born between 1995 and 2012 ‘generation sensible’.

Researchers surveyed around 520 Britons aged 18 to 25 who considered themselves moderate or non-drinkers. WHEN?

They also used focus groups OF? university students who were part of ‘sober’ societies to find out why they chose to abstain.

Among the reasons for cutting back on the booze was soaring supermarket costs, academic pressures and a desire to excel in their career due to ‘hustle culture’.

However a quarter also said they take recreational drugs as a substitute for alcohol, suggesting the decline in drinking may not be entirely sensible.

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The NHS recommends that adults drink no more than 14 units each week — that’s 14 single shots of spirit or six pints of beer or a bottle and a half of wine

Drinking too much alcohol really does age you, researchers say. 

Scientists at the University of Oxford believe anything more than five glasses of wine a week speeds up the body’s biological clock.

Experts examined data from nearly 250,000 people and found those who drank over 17 units of alcohol per week had shorter telomeres.

Telomeres are biological caps found on the ends of chromosomes which protect the DNA in them from damage — much like how the ‘caps’ on the ends of our shoelaces prevent fraying.

They naturally get shorter as we age, leading to DNA becoming damaged and raising the risk of developing problems such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes and heart disease. Research has also linked having longer telomeres to looking younger.

Scientists only observed the link in people who drank at least 17 units a week.

In the UK, Britons are urged not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis – the equivalent of six pints of lager or 10 small glasses of wine.

Americans are advised not to drink more than 14 bottles of beer a week for men and seven small glasses of wine for women.

Researchers said young adults appear to be more ‘mindful of the risk and uncertainties involved with excessive alcohol consumption’.

Previous studies have shown more than a quarter of Gen Zers are now teetotal while more are also drinking in moderation rather than regularly over-doing it.

In the UK, Britons are urged not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis — the equivalent of six pints of lager or 10 small glasses of wine. 

Americans are advised not to drink more than 14 bottles of beer a week for men and seven small glasses of wine for women.

The latest study, published in the British Journal of Sociology, recruited 517 British adults for an online survey from April to July 2020.

Young people who either did not drink or did so only in moderation were targeted via social media and email lists for the questionnaire.

Around 79 per cent were women, with 17 per cent being men and 1.7 per cent identifying as non-binary.

They were mostly students or recent graduates from middle class backgrounds. 

Four focus groups of 13 members were also formed based on sober societies at three universities in southern and northern England.

Participants were asked their reasons for not drinking or limiting their alcohol, as well as what hobbies they did instead, what pressures they felt and why they thought there were generational differences in drinking cultures. 

Around 30 per cent of respondents said they enjoyed arts and crafts in place of boozing, while they also listed reading, watching videos and listening to music as alternative hobbies.

Five per cent said they choose to do creative hobbies, playing instruments and board games and ‘learning new things’. 

One focus group member, Kate, said she spends her time baking, shopping, yoga, cinema, bowling, volunteering and seeing friends rather than going to the pub.

Around 69 per cent said they have better choice of hobbies than their parents did at the same age, which means they do not choose to drink as much as them.

Meanwhile, 70 per cent said they felt they were under greater pressure than their parents generation to achieve academically and get a good job, making them less likely to drink excessively.

They said university debt meant drinking felt more expensive and also felt like a greater waste of time if it was impacting their studies. 

And others claimed societal pressures like climate change were turning them into a ‘scared generation’ who are less likely to spend time ‘having fun’. 

Professor Adam Burgess, a sociologist at the University of Kent who led the study, said: ‘Generation Z appears to be a self-conscious generation with significant and open-ended focus upon maintaining their wellbeing and control.

‘Generation Z is mindful of the risk and uncertainties involved with excessive alcohol consumption on potential future outcomes and individuals feel empowered to make the personal choice of consciously moderating their consumption or abstaining altogether.’

But experts have warned that while lower alcohol consumption among Gen-Z may bring public health benefits, it also coincides with worsening mental health in the young population.

Professor Henry Yeomans, a historical criminologist at the University of Leeds, who co-authored the study, said: ‘Individualisation transforms public problems, from climate change to economic precarity, into personal choices about drinking and other lifestyle activities.

‘Those seeking to instigate further declines in drinking should take moderators’ and abstainers’ lived experiences into account or they may risk making these experiences of pressure, anxiety and insecurity more intense and more widespread.’

It comes after a recent survey revealed that more and more young workers have reported feelings of burnout.

The study by job website ‘Indeed’ found that millennials and Gen-Z workers were reporting the highest rates of burnout, at 59 per cent and 58 per cent respectively.


One screening tool used widely by medical professionals is the AUDIT (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Tests). Developed in collaboration with the World Health Organisation, the 10-question test is considered to be the gold standard in helping to determine if someone has alcohol abuse problems.

The test has been reproduced here with permission from the WHO.

To complete it, answer each question and note down the corresponding score.


0-7: You are within the sensible drinking range and have a low risk of alcohol-related problems.

Over 8: Indicate harmful or hazardous drinking.

8-15: Medium level of risk. Drinking at your current level puts you at risk of developing problems with your health and life in general, such as work and relationships. Consider cutting down (see below for tips).

16-19: Higher risk of complications from alcohol. Cutting back on your own may be difficult at this level, as you may be dependent, so you may need professional help from your GP and/or a counsellor.

20 and over: Possible dependence. Your drinking is already causing you problems, and you could very well be dependent. You should definitely consider stopping gradually or at least reduce your drinking. You should seek professional help to ascertain the level of your dependence and the safest way to withdraw from alcohol.

Severe dependence may need medically assisted withdrawal, or detox, in a hospital or a specialist clinic. This is due to the likelihood of severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms in the first 48 hours needing specialist treatment.

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