At an average of 2.3 gallons of alcohol a year, American alcohol consumption remains on a prolonged uptrend. The trend is in sharp contrast with the increasing research in the field. Despite prior beliefs that certain drinks in specific amounts could create a net-gain in health, recent studies have dispelled such rumors. While some drinking may lower risks of heart disease, there can be tradeoffs in other areas – like cancer risk – making drinking unhealthy in excess.
The uptrend started roughly around the turn of the millennium. All time highs for the century remain firmly in the 1970s – when American adults drank upwards of 2.75 gallons a year. A downtrend began in 1981, after an increased legal drinking age and a concentrated campaign against drunk driving. Now, increasing economic inequality and lower quality of life are driving more Americans back into alcohol. U.S. alcohol consumption rates are now higher than just before Prohibition, according to the Associated Press.
Several factors are contributing to the increase in American drinking. Partially, it is associated with record high stress levels among average adults. Alcohol offers a quick, easy relief from regular stress – to a degree. As the middle class continues to evaporate, more Americans are forced to live paycheck-to-paycheck. Worse, international politics are at their most tumultuous point in decades.
Further, the millennials are now well into their child-rearing years. The additional stress of raising children may be driving the traditionally alcohol-hesitant generation to cope. Generation Z, however, appears to be taking to alcohol more slowly than their predecessors. The oldest of Generation Z are only 24, so that trend still has time to reverse.
Changes in Alcohol Consumption
Beyond consumption rates, seismic shifts in how Americans prefer to imbibe continue. A decline in beer consumption shook the foundation of American drinking. Even wine saw a decrease, for the first time in 25 years. Instead, U.S. drinkers are taking to hard seltzers – led by the aforementioned millennial generation.
While it spells bad news for beer producers, the shift can be credited to the healthier views of younger Americans. Most beers are calorie heavy – something that millennials avoid like the plague. In comparison, clear liquors and hard seltzers tend towards the lighter side. Unfortunately, they still come with disease and cancer risks.
Article By: Adam Stone