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27 Aug, 2019

UK: As Young Drinkers Decline, Baby Boomers Drive Alcohol Consumption

UK, 21 August 2019, IOGT International News – While alcohol consumption steadily declines with young people, baby boomers continue to drive more alcohol consumption.

More and more young people across the world are choosing to be alcohol-free, driving a global decrease in alcohol use. According to a recent report by University of Sheffield on alcohol use trends in the UK across the last 10 to 15 years, alcohol consumption has decreased among youth with rates of alcohol-free young people among 16 to 24 year-olds on the rise from 10% to nearly 25%.

There is a global cultural shift in how people view alcohol. Young people are driving this change to be more mindful, healthy and alcohol-free. Due to this change in the alcohol norm there is growing popularity for  sobriety movements, dry months, sharing of positive alcohol-free experiences, and non-alcoholic beverages.

Increasing alcohol use among Baby Boomers

While the young are decreasing their alcohol use, older people, over 55 years of age – the Baby Boomer generation –  are increasing their consumption.

In the UK, the 55 to 64 age group remains the most likely to consume alcohol heavily and the least likely to abstain from alcohol.

Abstinence has also decreased by 5% in the over-65s since 2005. Overall, the last 20-30 years have seen increases in alcohol use rates among middle-aged and older populations – particularly in women over 25 and in Northern Ireland.

This means for the UK, rather than a decrease in overall alcohol consumption, there is a polarization.

4% of the population who use alcohol most heavily purchase around 30% of all alcohol sold in the UK. Deaths related to alcohol use were at the highest they’ve been in a decade in 2017 – with alcohol-related hospital admissions 67% higher than 10 years ago.

Alcohol harm in the UK

© WHO Global Alcohol Status Report 2018

As the WHO reports, in UK half the male population (49.9%) and about a third of the whole population (32.6%) above 15 years binge on alcohol.

In the UK, alcohol causes

  • 5,500+ Liver Cirrhosis deaths,
  • 10,000+ Cancer deaths, and
  • alcohol use disorders in 13% of the male population, which is above the WHO European region average

The growing alcohol use among older people is specially worrying as older people face specific problems from alcohol.

According to a report by IOGT NTO, the increased sensitivity to alcohol in old age combined with the ageing process can increase risk of disease and accidents.

For example use of alcohol increases risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, dementia, and cancer for older people. The harm is aggravated when alcohol is combined with prescription drugs. For example this combination can result in heightened risk of falls and injuries.