Why is youth alcohol consumption falling? A mixed methods investigation of changing drinking cultures across recent generations


  • Dr John Holmes

    University of Sheffield

Project summary

Alcohol consumption has fallen sharply among young people in the UK, leading some newspapers to label this generation ‘the new puritans’. Despite comparable trends being reported in Europe, North America and Australia, we know little about why this is happening, which young people are drinking less, whether youth drinking is concentrated in particular high-risk groups and whether new inequalities are emerging. We also do not know how these changes relate to wider youth culture and what the implications are for public policy.

We will investigate the ways young people’s drinking habits have changed over recent decades and whether these changes have varied across the population. We will also ask whether changes in alcohol’s position in broader youth culture can help to explain the fall in drinking. We will focus on 11-24-year-olds in England, using trend analyses and unique survey data to examine the changing characteristics of youth drinking and the shifting relationships between youth health and leisure activities. Qualitative interviews with four age-defined cohorts will further investigate changes and continuities in youth drinking practices, and their connections to other activities.

The results of this study will contribute novel insights into how positive trends in youth drinking can be reinforced and the re-emergence of negative trends can be curtailed.