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08/09/2011

UK: The rise of the teetotal generation

Source: The Independent

Increasing numbers of British young people are abstaining from alcohol according to an annual survey of young people's drinking habits published by the NHS Information. This follows nine years of steady increases in the proportion of 11 to 15 year olds who have never tried alcohol, from 39 per cent in 2001 to 49 per cent last year.

These figures coincide with a 21 per cent decline in the number of children under the age of 16 needing hospital treatment for alcohol-related diseases in the past two years, suggesting that safe drinking messages may be starting to get through.

The figures, which fly in the face of the "feral" youth image portrayed by some newspapers, have been welcomed cautiously by alcohol experts. The number of problem drinkers, both young and old, needing psychological help or hospital treatment for alcohol related disease remains high.

The trend among young people seems to mirror an increase in abstainers within the adult population – although this is in part related to a rise in ethnic diversity, as large proportions of people from the Muslim and Hindu faiths abstain for religious reasons.

Don Shenker, the chief executive of Alcohol Concern, said: "There appears to be a culture emerging of young people not buying into the drink industry's marketing of alcohol and instead choosing to be more independent and discerning about their lifestyle.

"There are already budding groups springing up online of young people who want more from life than just speed drinking and vomiting on the way home, which is very encouraging.... If young celebrities publicly give up drinking, then this could encourage the trend further," he added.