The me­dia calls us Gen­er­a­tion Sen­si­ble. But he­do­nism comes at too high a price

The Observer - - News - Amy Walker

Gen­er­a­tion Sen­si­ble, say the head­lines each time young peo­ple are re­ported to be in less trou­ble than pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions. Gone are the days when par­ents would fret over their kids’ ex­ces­sive con­sump­tion of Bac­ardi Breez­ers – now, the prob­lem is that we’re just not drink­ing enough.

As a 23-year-old, I drink – and have also, on oc­ca­sion, made an ab­so­lute id­iot of my­self af­ter one too many Stel­las. I even like pubs that don’t serve craft beer – you know, the ones with pool tables and dis­tinctly sticky floors. But for me, drink­ing comes sec­ond to hang­ing out with friends – some­thing nice to do be­fore a gig or cinema trip. I rarely en­ter­tain the idea of hav­ing a few at home on a week night – and I’m not alone in my self-re­straint.

Fig­ures re­leased by the Health Sur­vey for Eng­land last week show that in 2015 one in three 16 to 24-year-olds was tee­to­tal, com­pared with one in five in 2005. Life­time ab­stain­ers in­creased from 9% to 17% in the same pe­riod, while for the rest of us young ’uns, rates of bingedrink­ing have de­clined. It’s hard to dis­pute the la­bel we’ve been given – our lack of ap­petite for a tip­ple is sen­si­ble, es­pe­cially given the re­sults from a re­cent study that sug­gested there is no healthy level of al­co­hol con­sump­tion.

Why are young peo­ple so bor­ing? Not be­cause we’re all Fit­bit-wear­ing, hypochon­dri­acs who are far too con­cerned about the pos­si­ble im­pli­ca­tions of hav­ing a can to make time for a booze-up. Yes, so­cial me­dia and ex­ces­sive Pho­to­shop­ping have ramped up the ex­pec­ta­tion for per­fect ap­pear­ances and life­styles, but we are not ex­trem­ists.

It is ne­ces­sity that drives us to cut down on drink. For most of us, our fu­tures hang in the bal­ance – now more than they ever did for our el­ders, which means we’ve sim­ply got a lot more to get on with. He­do­nism, once the height of youth cul­ture, has lost its cool fac­tor.

The best way to un­der­stand this is to look at how the fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion for young peo­ple has shifted in the pe­riod cov­ered by the Health Sur­vey for Eng­land. Al­most half of all young peo­ple in Eng­land go on to higher ed­u­ca­tion, pay­ing up to £9,250 a year for the priv­i­lege. In 2005 stu­dents were charged only £3,000 a year. As real-term wages have barely grown dur­ing that pe­riod, it’s no won­der those sit­ting on a moun­tain of debt by their 21st birth­day are loath to get smashed with their pals all the time.

When we’re thrown into the adult world, the stakes are also much higher. More twenty-some­things have pre­car­i­ous work con­tracts and stag­nat­ing wages; over half of us have no sav­ings at all. The prospect of own­ing our own homes is di­min­ish­ing. Since 2005, the av­er­age house price in the UK has risen by more than 50%. Up to a third of young peo­ple face liv­ing in pri­vate rented ac­com­mo­da­tion for the rest of their lives, ac­cord­ing to the Res­o­lu­tion Foun­da­tion. Even a drink is more ex­pen­sive– a pint to­day costs, on av­er­age, £1.20 more than in 2005.

It’s not only that we may never be fi­nan­cially com­fort­able. With NHS ser­vices slashed, young peo­ple’s men­tal health is in cri­sis. Since even our wellis de­ter­mined by eco­nomic fac­tors, fewer of us are will­ing to throw cau­tion to the wind – al­though drink­ing has not de­creased amongst those with poor men­tal health.

For more proof that overindul­gence is no longer in vogue, look also to the icons of our era: the trash­ing-ho­tel-rooms-for-the-sakeof-it types they are not. You won’t see a mem­ber of the Kar­dashian clan or Ed Sheeran stum­bling out of a club with a fag in one hand and a bot­tle in the other à la Liam Gal­lagher. Nowa­days, young peo­ple are too busy try­ing to es­tab­lish our­selves and keep afloat in so­ci­ety to en­joy be­ing on the fringes of it.

You could say we’re all just very dull – but, like our lives, it’s more com­pli­cated than that.

Soft drinks are a bet­ter choice these days for those twen­tysome­things sit­ting on a moun­tain of debt.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.