When did you last tear up the town on a really hedonistic night? Perhaps spare me too detailed a reply. Teetotalism is now a major force in British life – that’s the intriguing finding from the latest work by the Office for National Statistics. One in five adults is teetotal, rising to one in four among young people and pensioners, and one in three Londoners. The only group defying this trend is retired women! Binge-drinking’s falling across the UK and especially among young adults. The West Midlands are driest after London, while abstinence is lowest in north-east and south-west England. Pour me a cider.
The change in drinking habits coincides with the growth of Britain’s Muslim communities, but that accounts for only a small drop. Pun intended. Less disposable income is a factor, especially among under-25s. And of course, people don’t accurately report their drinking. There’s been an increase in liver disease, diabetes, and alcohol problems at A&E. One theory is that we’re seeing the benefit of a Noughties crackdown on sales of alcohol to underage drinkers.
This is a recent phenomenon. I’m of a generation who, when we were 15 and scrawny, delighted in being served at most local pubs and off licences. One pal ran a cottage industry in his parents’ dining room, producing bogus laminated identity cards to allow safe passage past whichever chortling doorman we troubled with our presence that Friday evening. No more.
We’re seeing the ascent of Generation Sober, teenagers who have more conservative views on smoking, drugs, drinking, careers, gambling and sex. “What’s gone wrong with the kids of today?” grumbles one of our sub-editors, Rich.
It’s rare I give the final word to Boris Johnson, but here we go: “I would say that on the whole, the younger generation are nice, kinder, more well-balanced and more emotionally literate than my lot ever were.”