Research indicates that the number of young people drinking alcohol is going down.
This might come as a surprise to those of you who have “accidentally” watched an episode (read: seasons) of Geordie Shore, but the numbers do not lie. According to a 2019 report published by the National Health and Medical Research Council, Australians are not only first trying alcohol at an older age but are increasingly choosing to abstain from it entirely.
In fact, 21 percent of 18-24 year olds were completely sober compared to 13.1 percent in 2007 – a statistic I recently decided to become part of.
I am not alone in the decision to quit drinking. Like many other 20-somethings, I had groaned about bad hangovers, half-heartedly announcing I would “never drink again” while simultaneously clicking ‘going’ to a pub crawl invitation for the following weekend. But this time was different – thanks to the sober curious movement online, I could no longer ignore the negative impact alcohol had on my mental health.
Neither could 1.9 million other Australians, a number I suspect will only continue to grow as the sobriety movement gains traction on social media.
Mental health is at the forefront of our minds, with government-subsidised mental health plans encouraging more access to practitioners and the common sentiment that therapy is so important. And it is – but we also know that it is most effective in conjunction with positive lifestyle choices.
The reality is that alcohol is a depressant that creates the illusion of relaxation by altering the chemicals in our brains, a side effect many of us happily welcome after a long week. But in turn, the next day our brains overcompensate for the decrease in ‘excitable’ transmitters – enter hangxiety, a condition Gen Z are increasingly conscious of.
But hangxiety – though not always coined as such – has been around forever, right? Can’t young people just drink responsibly? Well, maybe. But many of us are realising that not only is moderating alcohol hard because of the way it affects your brain, we are also realising we can absolutely have fun without it.
No, I don’t mean sitting around in a circle and collectively scrolling on our phones, but rather through cooking home dinners, going for hikes and visiting markets – all activities that feel virtually impossible with a pounding head and racing heart.
While drinking was once seen as the social glue that held Australians together, young people are seeing the writing on the pub wall.
To protect our mental health, we have to continue to redefine what fun looks like in the modern age; if that means swapping beer for kombucha, count me in.