Are Young Adults really a generation of abstainers?

October 17, 2023
By Melissa Parker

Leading alcohol charity Drinkaware’s latest report reveals young adults who drink are more likely to binge drink at high risk to their health.

Drinkaware, the UK’s leading alcohol charity which aims to reduce alcohol harm, has released the report, The Sober Myth: Are Young Adults Really a Generation of Non-Drinkers, which surveyed more than 5,200 young adults aged 18-24 from across the UK between 2017 and 2023.  

Young adults have the highest rates of non-drinking, rising from 14 per cent in 2017 to 21 per cent in 2023; however, four in five young adults (79 per cent) still drink alcohol and are more likely to binge drink and drink at high-risk or dependent levels compared to drinkers aged 25 and over, according to new research by Drinkaware, published last week.

The findings revealed young adults who drink alcohol are more likely to binge drink (74 per cent vs 63 per cent), and they are twice as likely to drink at high-risk or possibly dependent levels compared to the rest of the population (11 per cent vs. six per cent).

The survey also found that compared to drinkers aged 25 and over:

  • Young adult drinkers are more likely to screen positive for anxiety or depression (43 per cent vs. 26 per cent)
  • Young adult drinkers are more likely to experience memory loss (40 per cent vs. 19 per cent), morning cravings (14 per cent vs. 4 per cent), and failure to meet their usual responsibilities (24 per cent vs. 12 per cent)
  • Young adult drinkers are more likely to drink alcohol on nights out with friends (84 per cent vs. 74 per cent) but less likely to drink alone at home (43 per cent vs. 52 per cent)
  • Young adults drink less often, at least once a week (46 per cent v 56 per cent)

Karen Tyrell, Drinkaware’s Chief Executive, said,

“It is really encouraging to see more young adults choosing not to drink and those that do drink less often. These positive trends are welcome, but we must be careful that they don’t mask some of the more concerning drinking behaviours that still exist. Young people are still more likely to binge drink than other age groups and suffer from memory loss and depression linked to their drinking.”

“We must ensure that young people’s drinking habits are not ignored, and they are properly addressed as part of any new alcohol strategy. We need to normalise conversations around alcohol, making it easier for people to speak up and get help if they are worried about their own or others drinking.”

Learn more about drinking habits and get free tips and advice through the Drinkaware Drinking Check. This short quiz reveals whether drinking is putting your health at risk; visit

A full copy of The Sober Myth: Are Young Adults Really a Generation of Non-Drinkers is available to download on our research and evaluation reports page

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