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Abstinence in UK becoming the “mainstream”

The number of young people in the UK choosing to not drink has risen to almost a third, with abstinence becoming increasingly “mainstream”.

The number of 16-24 years olds that consider themselves non-drinkers has risen to 29%

In a study published in the journal BMC Public Health on the habits of almost 10,000 youngsters in 2015 a clear decline in consumption of alcohol among young adults aged 16-24 was observed. 

Of those surveyed, 29% regarded themselves as non drinkers, up from 18% in 2005.

In 2005 two in five young people (43%) admitted drinking above the recommended limits, but this fell to just 28% 10 years later.

Binge drinking rates have also decreased from 27% to 18% over the same period, based on Health Survey for England figures.

Levels of abstention have also increased, from 9% in 2005 to 17% in 2015.

“Increases in non-drinking among young people were found across a broad range of groups, including those living in northern or southern regions of England, among the white population, those in full-time education, in employment and across all social classes and healthier groups,” Dr Linda Ng Fat, lead author of the study, said.

“That the increase in non-drinking was found across many different groups suggests that non-drinking may becoming more mainstream among young people which could be caused by cultural factors.”

She added: “The increase in young people who choose not to drink alcohol suggests that this behaviour maybe becoming more acceptable, whereas risky behaviours such as binge drinking may be becoming less normalised.”

It echoes recent findings by the World Health Organisation which showed a dramatic decrease in drinking among adolescents in England, compared to many other European countries.

A significant reduction in weekly alcohol use among adolescents was observed between 2002 and 2014 in the majority of the 36 countries featured in a World Health Organisation (WHO) report.

While some countries saw no change at all, or only very small decreases, since 2002, the largest decline for drinking alcohol on a regular basis for both boys and girls was in England.

More than half (50.3%) of teenage boys in England drank weekly in 2002, compared with just 10% 2014, the research found. Wales had the second largest drop in prevalence for boys, from 47.6% to 11.8% across the same period.

With girls, 43.1% in England drank alcohol weekly in 2002, falling to fewer than one in 10 (8.9%) in 2014. This was the largest decline for girls across the 36 countries, followed by Scotland which saw consumption drop from 41.1% to 10.7%.

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