The temptations of drink are being replaced by the lure of social media for many young Britons, some of whom worry that their reputations would suffer from drunken antics posted online, according to new research.
Nineteen per cent of 16-24-year-olds don’t drink, and 66 per cent claim that alcohol is not important to their social lives, states the report from the Demos think tank.
The findings echo figures from the Office of National Statistics, released earlier this year, which revealed that the proportion of 16-24 year olds who claim to be teetotal has risen from 19 per cent to 27 per cent during the past decade.
The sobering effect of social media – whether as a distraction or a deterrent – is cited as a factor in the decline in drinking by more than four in ten young people polled for Demos.
“The survey results certainly indicate that the growing importance of social media in modern life in playing a role in young people's decisions around alcohol - both explicitly and implicitly. Overall, 42 per cent of the young people we surveyed felt that the Internet and platforms such as Facebook have given young people more things to fill their time,” commented Ian Wybron, co-author of the report.
“What's more, 29 per cent of young people cited concerns about their online reputations as contributing to the decline in youth alcohol consumption - showing an increasing awareness of the 'shareability' of social media could be encouraging them to steer away from excessive drinking,” he added.
Other reasons given by 16-24 year olds to explain the change in drinking habits include a growing awareness of the health risks of alcohol and not being able to afford to drink.
Signalling a generation shift in attitudes, one in three young people think alcohol is more important to their parents than them.
Falling alcohol rates cannot simply be put down to an increase in migrant populations from non-drinking cultures, as this would only account for around a third of the rise in the number of young people not drinking, says the report.
It recommends that Public Health England examine the reasons for the shift in drinking habits, and that the Government develop an early intervention strategy as part of its approach to tackling alcohol misuse.
Responding to the findings, Professor Mark Bellis, alcohol lead for the UK Faculty of Public Health, said: “The pace and extent of change to the environment where young people develop is without precedent. Drinking alcohol at home or in pubs, bars and clubs now has to compete with social media, on line games and on demand TV for young people’s time and money.”
He added: “Some reductions in drinking may result from new technologies providing appealing alternatives to cheap booze but the same new technologies have also helped spread damaging trends like Neknominate.”
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