‘I didn’t touch alcohol at uni’ - Why more young people are becoming teetotal

PUBLISHED: 15:02 10 October 2018 | UPDATED: 17:40 10 October 2018

Youngsters are not going to the pub as much. Photo: Sonya Duncan

Youngsters are not going to the pub as much. Photo: Sonya Duncan


Almost a third of young people are not drinking alcohol in what has become a mainstream shift in drinking habits across the region, a BMC Public Health journal report has revealed.

Youngsters are not going to the pub as much Photo: Sonya DuncanYoungsters are not going to the pub as much Photo: Sonya Duncan

Almost a third of young people are shunning alcohol in what has become a major shift in drinking habits, a BMC Public Health journal report has revealed.

Researchers at University College, London, found that abstaining from alcohol was becoming “more mainstream” among people aged 16 to 24.

The study, which analysed annual health survey data on almost 10,000 young people, discovered that the proportion of 16- to 24-year-olds teetotallers increased from 18% in 2005 to 29% in 2015.

While the news was welcomed by Mancroft Advice Project - a Norfolk based charity, which provides youth counselling and advice - Chief Executive Dan Mobbs warned that young people from disadvantaged backgrounds were more likely to have an unhealthy lifestyle.

Hands holding glasses with beer on a table at pub in London. A group of friends is enjoying beer time in the city, close up on the glasses.Hands holding glasses with beer on a table at pub in London. A group of friends is enjoying beer time in the city, close up on the glasses.

“We see the general pattern of alcohol abstinence in young people repeated in the reduction in smoking, drug use, teenage pregnancy and transmitted sexual infection rates. Young people are becoming healthier and it is unfair that we still portray young people as being irresponsible. In addition, their primary activities, including being online, do not involve smoking and drinking.”

Mr Mobbs believes that there has been a shift in youth culture and young people’s values have changed. “Our experience of working in schools is that young people take their health and lifestyle much more seriously.”

However Mr Mobbs pointed out that more young people were experiencing mental health issues and under pressure to be more successful and lead healthier lives.

“It is particularly important that we do more to support young people from disadvantaged backgrounds especially in Norfolk and Suffolk where it is much harder to break out of their circumstances.”

The study also appeared to show fewer young people were drinking harmful amounts or binge drinking as rates dropped from 27% to 18% in 2015

The increased rates of non-drinking were not observed among smokers, ethnic minorities and those with poor mental health, according to the study.

Dr Linda Ng Fat, the lead author of the study, said: “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.”Millennials Rosanna Elliott and Jessica Long look back on their love-hate relationship with alcohol.

Rosanna Elliott

I didn’t touch a drop of alcohol at uni. I can’t remember what inspired my puritanical stance but it happened between drinking a bottle of champagne dressed as Richard II on my 18th birthday and sipping a can of beer while locked in a chicken shed at a sixth-form house party.

Maybe in my youthful naivety I thought I had “been there and done that” when it came to drinking. But being teetotal was probably more to do with a sense of self-preservation on going to uni. I was suddenly completely out of my comfort zone and not quite sure who I was. If I had added alcohol into the mix in my first year or so as a student, it would have exacerbated what was a turbulent time. Now I’m in my mid-20s, I’m more secure with who I am, have a fuller social life and now like a drink with my friends. It’s not that alcohol was the missing link in having a good time, it was just that aspects of my life had fallen into place including confidence in my own judgement.

Jessica Long

I always enjoyed a drink and was out most Saturday nights in Norwich but when I moved to Bournemouth to study I started to drink a lot more.

A shelf lined with bottles of vodka, tequila and cheap wine became a trophy cabinet in celebration of how much we had drunk. I joined a netball team and spent every Wednesday at a fancy dress social where drinking games and excess was the norm. Those who could down a drink the quickest were treated like queens.

I remember going out nine nights in a row but home for the summer, I went teetotal for three months. All that drinking had made me gain weight and I felt unhealthy.

When I returned to Bournemouth, the drinking was at a much reduced rate - more to do with growing up than a conscious decision.

Now at the age of 25, I enjoy a few drinks but I’d much prefer a productive weekend than languishing in bed with a hangover.

If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Eastern Daily Press. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Eastern Daily Press