Most Gen Zers (mid 1990s – early 2010s) have been of drinking age for more than 10 years now, and judging by their parents’ and grandparents’ debut drink, they offered a promising outlook on entering the alcohol market. In reality, trends show Gen Z is going dry, and not just in January: alcohol consumption for this generation is over 20% less per capita than for Millennials and sales for alcohol-free beverages are booming. In light of this, are we on the cusp of the unimaginable sober POP! experience?
We should first understand what it is exactly that makes Gen Z and Millennials cut down on drinking compared to their older counterparts. My initial hypothesis was health reasons: could it be that the alcohol awareness efforts have proved fruitful in turning kids away from unhealthy habits? We can’t be too sure to lend all credit to them: one thing about these generations is that they are more risk-averse in general, over the whole spectrum of unhealthy behaviour. Gen Z and Millennials are not only lesser drinkers but also engage less in smoking, drugs and unprotected sex.
For our generation, excessive behaviour isn’t doing it anymore.
Alcohol awareness campaigns in schools rarely elicit more than a stifled yawn from students, but that is not where the conversion to sobriety happens. #SoberTok has been trending on TikTok with 1.3 billion views attached to the hashtag. Creators relay stories of alcohol abuse, rehab, treatment tips and signs of alcoholism. Young people don’t need any more convincing that regular drinking is bad for them, with 57% saying they would rather go to the gym for an hour than to a bar, and 69% being simply bored with a heavy drinking culture. According to Think with Google, 86% of Gen Z consider mental health as important as physical health, and 70% consider heavy drinking “very risky”.
If nearly two decades ago the cast of How I Met Your Mother led a fairly normal life, now we see them post up in MacLaren’s Pub daily and think to ourselves “Do you need some help?”. For our generation, excessive behaviour isn’t doing it anymore.
Budget friendly, devoid of sweaty strangers and uncomfortable noise, instantly terminated at the push of a button, who needs drinks anymore?
Shifts in generational habits are also illustrative of global changes in socialising: when alcohol used to be more popular were also the times when one was obligated to go out should they want to entertain the company of others. Nowadays, we needn’t get off the couch to enjoy the company of a limitless number of friends, all under our control, online. Budget friendly, devoid of sweaty strangers and uncomfortable noise, instantly terminated at the push of a button, who needs drinks anymore?
We ran a survey at Warwick to see where our student body lies in light of these emerging trends, and the results are in line with what you might be expecting. Out of 85 respondents to our survey, 89.4% (76) answered that they have had alcohol at least once this month. While this is more than the Gen Z trend predicts, it is in line with university-like socialising patterns. Students, especially in Term 3, will make a few exceptions and, maybe, celebrate the end of exams with a drink.
The 41% (35) of students that said they have considered cutting down on drinking in the last month are an indicator that Warwick is considering going sober. The most cited reason, as expected, is “physical health”, closely followed by “mental health”. Students are concerned for their physical and mental wellbeing and this is leading them to at least think of controlling their alcohol consumption.
Many experts online lend the rising teetotaling population trend to changes in how people view their social media image, so we expected results to this survey to also cite this as a reason for quitting alcohol. However, only 9%, or four people, said the prospect of ruining their online image and real life reputation is a factor in them quitting. Our life is nowadays under constant scrutiny, as either ourselves or the people around us make efforts to document every second of our nights out. From the sheer amount of videos online of inebriated people doing embarrassing things, the prospect of ourselves being in their place one day is terrifying.
49% of Gen Z claim their online image is something they always consider, and 76% place a lot of importance on always being in control of their life.
The same Googlethink article asserts that 49% of Gen Z claim their online image is something they always consider, and 76% place a lot of importance on always being in control of their life. This discrepancy suggests students at Warwick don’t feel as consumed by social media as the average Gen Z, or have healthier online habits.
All in all, the biggest boozy student venues on campus, the Copper Rooms, Dirty Duck and T-Bar are teeming with eager partygoers every Wednesday and Friday. 61% (52) of the survey respondents said they would not go to POP! Sober, explaining the drinking culture around pre-POP! circling activities. Buses going in and out of campus a few hours shy of dawn on Thursday morning are still inconveniently packed with students coming to and from campus. This suggests what the data confirms, that the Sober Pop! is, for now, but a glimmer in the bus drivers’ eyes.
The future of Warwick may not yet be alcohol free, but a larger part of it will surely head that way.
Still, the University is shifting with the culture and making more efforts to include non-drinkers in its social life. In a statement for The Boar, Anna Taylor, former VP of Societies and current President of the Students’ Union, said “Our community at Warwick has students from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences, with an equally wide variety of interests. In the coming year, WSU will continue to diversify the range of sober social offerings we provide for students, and continue ongoing work to develop training for society and club executives to tackle the pressure of social drinking to move towards a safer, more inclusive student community.”
In line with this, perhaps unimaginable to Warwick students from even a few years ago, one of the most asked questions candidates for the Social Secretary position get asked is “How do you plan to include non-drinkers into your social activities calendar?”. The future of Warwick may not yet be alcohol free, but a larger part of it will surely head that way.