Oct 18, 2022 - Health

Axios Finish Line: Americans are drinking less

Illustration of a cocktail with a straw shaped like a downward trend line on a chart

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

This article originally appeared in Axios Finish Line, our nightly newsletter on life, leadership and wellness. Sign up here.

Americans are drinking less than they used to.

By the numbers: The average number of drinks Americans consume in a week has been falling over the last several years, from 4.8 in 2009 to 3.6 in 2021, Gallup found.

  • 60% of Americans say they drink, down from 65% in 2019, Gallup says. That may seem like a small change — but it encompasses a huge number of non-drinkers.
  • Younger people are leading the charge. The share of college students who abstain from alcohol jumped from 20% to 28% between 2002 and 2018, according to a study in JAMA Pediatrics.

Why it matters: Excessive drinking can bring devastating harm.

  • Short-term effects include impaired judgment, risky behavior and injuries — including car crashes.
  • Long-term effects range from cancer and heart disease to decreased cognitive function and mental health issues.

Between the lines: One engine of this trend might be the rise of the "sober curious" movement. More and more young people are choosing to pursue sobriety for health and wellness, instead of due to dependency. Many more are limiting their alcohol consumption for the same reasons.

  • With that comes the rise of hip, new non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Sales of booze-free drinks skyrocketed 113% between 2020 and 2021, Nielsen notes. These include alcohol-free beer, mocktails in cans and CBD-based drinks.

My thought bubble: The decline of drinking goes hand-in-hand with other wellness trends young people are driving — including vegetarian and vegan diets.

  • Look for rates of drinking to drop even further as the next generation continues to prioritize health.
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