The Rise of The Teetotal Student

By Craig Hore | Friday 12th April, 2019

When we think of students we tend to think of crippling debts, oversized jumpers, last minute exam cramming and marathon drinking sessions. So it might come as a surprise to learn then, that the current generation of students is bucking the boozy stereotype, and opting out of alcohol.

elevate-755076-unsplashPhoto by Elevate on Unsplash

What gives we wonder?

Young people not drinking

A recent study revealed that almost 30% of young people in England do not drink, choosing to shun alcohol completely.

But the idea that young people not drinking goes against everything that students stand for - young people and booze have gone hand in hand since forever.

Teenagers and young adults rebel, it's just what they do. They push boundaries, figure out who they are and these moments of realisation, these epiphanies, are unearthed with the last swig of wine, or at the tailend of a hard day's drinking.

quentin-dr-125010-unsplashPhoto by Quentin Dr on Unsplash

But not anymore.

Yes, youngsters are still rebelling, but they aren't doing it through the traditional means, because the norms surrounding drinking are changing. In particular, binge drinking.

Binge drinking rates have plummeted in the last 10 years - falling from 27% in 2005 to 18% in 2015. What was once a socially acceptable past time for our parents generation, is fast falling out of favour.

Teetoalism and debt

With more and more financial issues to worry about, many young people are choosing to opt out of drinking, preferring to follow a wellness lifestyle, popularised by Instagram Influencers.

But this rising tide of teetotalism amongst students isn't just down to changing attitudes towards the consumption of alcohol, there are a lot more factors at play.

In fact, if you remove all social and religious reasons for teetotalism, the reamining causes centre around the crippling levels of debt that students are now faced with.

Thanks the the increase in university fees, many students have to pay £9,250 a year in fees, over three years, amounting to just shy of £30k of debt when they graduat, and then add student loans on top. Today's students are ridiculously in the red before they've even got their first paycheck.

Add this to the high debt and increased pressure to do well and achieve a good degree in order to secure a good job, and you have to wonder why we aren't seeing an increase in binge drinking numbers to numb the pain, not a decrease.

Yes, debt and job hunting have always been a concern for students, but never has it been more apparent than for Millennials and beyond. Millennials and Gen-Z have to deal with financial issues that our parents and grandparents never did.

Millennials and Gen-Z don't have to access to affordable housing, rents are sky high, the cost of living is rising exponentially and the state pension age is going up at an alarming rate, meaning students will have to work for longer to enjoy their limited twilight years.

So just how can today's students let their hair down without turning to drink?

Changing attitudes at university

vadim-sherbakov-194-unsplashPhoto by Vadim Sherbakov on Unsplash

To cater for this rise in teetotalism, universities have been trying to evolve with their students.

  1. Alcohol free accomodation. The number of teetotal students has risen to such levels that the universities of Swansea, St. Andrews and Aberdeen, for example, have created alcohol-free accomodation.
  2. Alcohol-free freshers week. Other universities are actively encouraging their societies and clubs to run at least one alcohol-free night during freshers week, as well as increasing the number of non-alcoholic drink options stocked in the student's union, and reducing the number of club nights that are held each week, in favour of alcohol-free events.
  3. Sobriety societies. Students themselves are doing what they have always done to bring about change - by taking matters into their own hands and creating non-drinking societies. At Newcastle university for example, The Sober Socials Society meet for a hot beverage and cake every Thursday, and whilst they started with just 20 members, their ranks have quickly swollen to 57 non-drinkers.

Generation Sensible

It's grossly unfair to tar Millennials with the moniker 'Generation Sensible' just because they'd sooner deal with their stress in the gym, or on a yoga mat, or drinking tea, than by turning themselves inside out with alcohol.

The choices young people are making is admirable - we grew up in a recession and understand better than our elders, the harsh realities of living outside of your means. And as such, these efforts to deal with the dire economy that we have been handed should be applauded, not ridiculed.

So for any readers worried about starting university as a non-drinker, allay those fears, you'll be in good (sober) company. Instead focus on your studies, put debt out of your mind and let help you handle any financial issues you may have.