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Chris Orr comments on… .The Hammered Look

“standfirst”>Many 20 and 30-somethings can’t afford to buy a house, so they’re not doing what previous generations did, which was when they reached 25, starting to save for their own homes

Wednesday 5th October 2005

Many 20 and 30-somethings can’t afford to buy a house, so they’re not doing what previous generations did, which was when they reached 25, starting to save for their own homes.

Now, apparently, there’s no point doing that so they have disposable money which they spend on instant gratification. They say "I’m 25 and can’t invest the money. I may as well blow it and have a good time." This was one of many comments from Professor Gary Cooper of Organizational Psychology and Health at Lancaster University Management School, who has recently spent his time – and let’s face it, to some degree, the taxpayers money – on looking at this phenomenon. His comments are part of the eruditely entitled ‘Britain ‘s Streets of Booze’ series which appears on BBC1 this week.

Here’s another comment from the Professor; referring to 18-35 year olds and the current state of marriage as related to booze, he says, "I’m not saying marriage was always a stable institution but divorce rates were never higher than now. People had a life to look forward to. This generation says ‘Relationships come and go. I can’t invest in anything so I may as well enjoy myself."

Right, so lets get this straight Prof, basically lots of people are binge drinking because they can’t get on the property ladder and they’re having problems developing long term relationships. Now I’m the first person to support sensible measures to tackle binge drinking, especially amongst young people but hang on a second, putting things in proportion, we all still have a choice. There’s nobody pointing a gun to someone’s head and saying "drink that double vodka lime shot".

For every person that does binge drink because they can’t get on the property ladder, there’s three or four others who carefully stick their money in a savings account and look forward to the day when they can buy their first flat. For every person resorting to alcohol because they’ve not found Mr or Mrs Right, there’s three or four that realize that the "hammered" look doesn’t exactly help you locate your soul-mate. What the BBC programme does, to some extent, is spend its time finding excuses for a generation that have never had it so good.

Thoughout social history, there’s been the option of drowning your sorrows at the bottom of a bottle of booze, but not everyone makes that choice. Giving a young generation the right to say "it’s not my fault I drink stupid amounts" is possibly more dangerous than offering them two for one shots between 5pm and 7pm on a Monday evening.

Perhaps the best response to this line of touchy feeling counselling can be seen on the BBC website discussion group on the programme; "Priced out of the market with a large disposable income" has been the definition of life in Japan for decades, is the comment posted by Clive, from Japan. "Now, while the Japanese DO enjoy a drink, a lot more of that disposable income makes its way into electronics, cars and designer bags. Maybe we British need to think "Gucci" rather than "Guinness?" He’s got a very valid point. But I prefer Simon from the UK’s equally valid point of view: "Mmm. Thought provoking stuff," he says in his post on the BBC Website. "Anyone fancy discussing this over a pint or 3 this lunch-time?" Can’t say fairer than that really, can you?

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