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Gen Z teens drink less alcohol and socialize online

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Kids today – they miss the same goals teens had in 1999, like getting blotto drunk at parties.

Gen Z teens in 2022 were much more likely to stay sober or drink less during their high school years than teens in 1999 to 2001, according to a new study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review,

Back then, the cool kids drank beer at parties or smuggled vodka to school events. However, the tables have turned and teens who were once derided as “nerds” for not drinking are now accepted.

“Twenty years ago … college students described a social hierarchy, with early adopters of alcohol at the top and non-drinking ‘nerds’ at the bottom,” said lead study author Jude Ball, Ph.D., of the University of Otago in New York. Zealand, in a statement.

And by senior year of high school, “drinking was seen as an almost mandatory aspect of teen socializing, especially for men,” Ball added.


Teenage boys share mobile phone messages.
Today’s teens prefer online socializing over drunken parties. “Now adolescents can expand their social circle, meet potential romantic partners, and try out a more flirty and confident personality — all without leaving home,” said lead study author Jude Ball.
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More than half of the 41 high school students surveyed 20 years ago were regular drinkers and often went to parties. By senior year of high school, all students had consumed alcohol with their friends.

“The majority had been drunk at least once or twice, and many were drunk weekly,” Ball said.

But of the 64 students interviewed in 2022, only one of the high school students in Year 10 (out of 12) reported drinking social alcohol.

“Most had never had more than a few sips of alcohol,” Ball said. Even among the older students, “about three-quarters abstained from alcohol or drank moderately on rare occasions, often with family, rather than friends.”


Photo of researcher Jude Ball, Ph.D.
Jude Ball, lead author of the study, found that high school students’ attitudes toward alcohol are very different today than they were 20 years ago.
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Some students were disappointed that their high school days turned out to be so dry.

“[Parties] don’t happen as much as I thought they would when I was younger,” commented one student. “I’m not sure if it’s like the people around me don’t have them or if they just don’t have them.”

So what do these down-to-earth teens do instead? They are still socializing, but they are doing it online.

“Now adolescents can expand their social circle, meet potential romantic partners, and try out a more flirty and confident personality — all without leaving home,” Ball said.

As one student said, “It’s much easier for people to do that [flirt] online than in person, because behind a phone you can be a completely different person.”

Another male student offered, “If you post some really, like, good photos of yourself… it’s like, ‘oh wow, that guy is hot,’ or whatever. Then before you know it girls will start following you on Instagram and stuff and then friends of those girls will start following you and you will start to get really popular.


Students text each other.
Partly thanks to the internet, high school students nowadays find other activities than drinking alcohol.
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In addition to the awareness of the health risks of alcohol, there is also a greater acceptance of diversity among teens today, and that includes a wide variety of activities that do not involve the use of alcohol.

There aren’t many “unwritten rules” for being a teenager [now] due to the fact that…the internet has made it much more common to like different things,” noted one student, adding that students these days don’t “try to conform to the fact that they are just one type of person… I think people are just more understanding of the fact that everyone is different.”

This new study supports other research documenting changing alcohol use among teens over the past few decades.

In 2021, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that from 2002 to 2021, reported alcohol use during the past 30 days among adolescents ages 14 to 15 had decreased by nearly 70 percent.

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