Actress Anne Hathaway grabbed headlines recently with a somewhat unorthodox parenting strategy: she revealed she has given up alcohol until her two-year-old son turns 18 because she does not want him to see her drunk.
Hathaway’s approach might seem puritanical to anyone who’s no longer in their twenties, but for Generation Z it’s the new normal. According to the Institute of Alcohol Studies, only 38 per cent of 11 to 15 year-olds have even tried alcohol, let alone gotten drunk.
So why has drinking fallen so rapidly out of favour? To those who inherited the social freedoms of the 60s and rebelled against the stiff upper lips of their parents it seems utterly bizarre that young people would shun drink and embrace sobriety. But today’s teenagers are exhibiting exactly the same spirit of teenage rebellion as the post-war generations: it’s just their focus has changed. Getting drunk is no longer edgy when you see your mum and dad doing it at the weekend. If drinking was once seen as the epitome of a good time, it is now perceived by children as deeply off-putting: in their minds it demonstrates a dangerous lack of self-control. This is the wellness generation: risk averse and health conscious in a way their parents never were. Veganism, fitness regimes and going T total are all ways to wrestle back a sense of control from what they perceive as their overly licentious parents.
Social media is also partly to blame. Generation Z possesses an ingrained, almost inhibiting self-awareness because it knows how social media can broadcast and immortalise every wrong move. They are watched by their peers 24-7 and this is reflected in the safe ways they choose to unwind: at home with friends rather than out drinking.