It’s 4.30 on Friday afternoon and Nick Swifte is cracking open a beer with colleagues.
By his own admission, the 45-year-old advertising executive is a “drinker of some renown”.
“I like getting drunk. I’m a big fan of it. Working as a media buyer there is booze everywhere. Any function you go to, every achievement, every win, every loss, it’s all celebrated with booze. There’s as much of it as you want and it’s all free.”
This weekly ritual, played out in workplaces and bars around the country, is not a new phenomenon.
But in recent times, Swifte has noticed a change at Friday night drinks.
“If the beer and chips come out at 4.30, by 5.30 all the kids under 30 are gone,” he said.
“When we were starting out in our 20s if the office turned on booze you would literally sit around and drink until there was nothing left. Now the younger staff might have one beer or not drink at all.
“They just don’t seem to have the same alcohol focus as the era when I grew up.”
It’s an observation that neatly encapsulates an emerging shift in Australia’s drinking culture. An increasing number of young people are turning their back on alcohol. Yet, at the same time, older drinkers show no signs of slowing. Experts warn the health burden for those in their 40s, 50s and 60s is starting to bite.