This study examines the lives and choices of young people (aged 16-25) who drink little or no alcohol. It explores the influences that shape their decisions and how their choices and patterns of consumption affect their lives.
Drinking and getting drunk is not an automatic rite of passage for young people in the UK. The findings of this study reflect that it is commonplace for young people to choose to drink little or no alcohol.
Choosing to drink little or no alcohol is a positive choice made for many reasons. For some young people the decision not to drink is central to their identity, for others it is ‘no big deal’, just one of many life choices.
Major influences stem from observing people around them. Good parental role models play a part, as does witnessing the negative effects of alcohol on others.
Young people who choose to drink little or no alcohol do not fall into easy stereotypes; their lives are busy and varied. As alcohol does not feature in their lives they tend to prefer activities where drinking alcohol rarely plays a role.
Young people develop responses and strategies to help them manage not drinking alcohol. While some avoid drinking environments, many are content to socialise with those who drink.
The immediate effects of drinking alcohol (i.e. hangovers, loss of control) concern young people more than longer-term health effects.
Young people feel that alcohol education and alcohol messages are based on the assumption that young people will drink. They emphasise the importance of presenting not drinking as a legitimate option to young people, parents and society more broadly.