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The unexpected charm of being a teetotaler (or seeming so): why generation z is the most sober | Health & Wellness

“People who look normal and then don’t drink” was a classic social media joke of 2010. A decade later, the next generation, more informed and concerned about their health, is challenging themselves to enjoy life without alcohol, ago flaunt sobriety on social media and drink lots of sparkling water and energy drinks: the zeta generation (those born between the late 1990s and 2000s) is the most sober in history. Data from an international study of HBSC, sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO), show that adolescents drink less than ever; only 8% drink alcohol every week, a third of those who were their age in 2006. In addition, 76% believe that having five or six drinks on a weekend can cause “quite a few problems”.

Sobriety is taken, but a new one, for physical and mental health reasons, and without stigma: you don’t need to have been an addict to want to be sober. A study carried out in the United Kingdom found that among 16-25 year olds it looked good to be a teetotaler. 26% do not drink any alcohol. In the previous generation, those who today are between 55 and 74 years old, only 15% could be classified as abstainers. In the United States, another 2020 study finds that among university students, those who do not drink alcohol have grown from 20% to 28% in a decade. And of those who try alcohol, 27% only allow it once a month and 25% drink once a week.

“From Monday to Friday, sparkling water, and beer only for the weekend.” This is how Nuria B., 21, has organized her social calendar. A show of discipline to reduce their alcohol consumption. “When she flowed, as my friends say, I went home every day with a couple of rods in my body”. Alicia L., 26, has opted for a minimalist strategy: one glass of wine per dinner. “I lengthen it with the conversation and I am careful that the waiter does not come from behind to refill my glass with nocturnality and treachery”. When she doesn’t want to drink, Sophie (25) asks for sparkling water in a thick crystal glass, like whiskey. “Very cold and with a slice of lemon. Rituals are important for self-deception,” she assures.

Young people from generation z have been the first, but not the only ones, to accept challenges or join currents to avoid drinking by default. An abundant body of trends, challenges, daily #alcoholfree and exercises help them be more mindful of the alcohol they consume. They have deactivated the autopilot and count each rod as someone who counts calories (and they are, by the way, calories). They are not teetotalers, those who are fluent in English call themselves, mindful drinkers (conscious drinkers). Those who do not simply say that they are “taking care of themselves”.

The English journalist Rosamund Dean is credited with the creation of the term mindful drinking (drink mindfully). In 2017, she published a book explaining his strategies to stop understanding alcohol consumption as a habit and a social obligation. The book, structured like a diary, describes her tactics to stop drinking out of habit. “I never considered giving it up completely because I like to enjoy a wine at dinner or a glass of champagne with friends,” she clarifies in the book. For her, the turning point for her was motherhood. “Because I didn’t drink during my pregnancies, I was able to realize all the money I was spending on wine. Also, carrying a hangover is very hard on a young child,” she says. Now, before drinking, she asks herself this question: am I going to remember this wine with joy or regret? If it’s with joy, keep going, and if not, stop. The new Dean drinks two or three times a week. Sometimes less. She has stopped doing it at work functions and has given up the glass of wine she used to drink every night after putting the children to bed. She prefers to save herself for important occasions.

It is also the generation z who embrace the culture sober curious (which could be translated as “interested in being sober”), which consists of exploring ways to have fun with zero alcohol in your blood. #sobercurious it is a whole category in TikTok where hashtags also triumph #sobriety, #soberlife, #alcoholfree Y #sobrietyforwomen.

The concept first appeared in 2018 in the book Sober Curious of the writer Ruby Warrington, who claimed at the time that her alcohol consumption was controlled, she did not drink more than two nights in a row and never ended up drunk. Still, she had two problems: “she drank more than she wanted and she wasn’t able to say no”. The philosophy of her book invites you to question every impulse to drink: Why this beer and why now? Warrington believes that looking closely at our relationship with alcohol leads to more mindful drinking strategies.

Later, the writer founded the Club Soda, a circuit of bars and clubs and an online community to train to be a teetotaler, or at least to drink with order. About half of its 70,000 members are more interested in becoming moderate drinkers than absolute teetotalers. The club has seen consistent growth in the United States, with many people in their 20s concerned about the impact of alcohol on their mental health.

Felipe Romero is a member of The Cocktail, a true observatory of trends. The change in the trend in alcohol consumption is observed in the growth of soft drinks Light or 0.0% and in the expansion of energy drinks. “This generation is less linked to alcohol than their generational cohort 15 years ago.” Romero also notes “a more relaxed consumption of alcohol.” And he explains it by the proliferation of new “companions” of alcohol, among them pipes sisha, that generate a group ritual that reduces impulsiveness.

In Spain, wine consumption grew more than anywhere else during the months of confinement: 17% compared to the same period of the previous year

The idea of ​​moderate consumption became even more attractive after the pandemic, when figures showed a sharp increase in alcohol consumption at home. This is what the nutritionist Itziar Dagón continues to see every day in her office: “We have learned to drink alone at home,” she laments. A study by the consulting firm IRI that compares the sales figures for alcohol, salty snacks, sweets and chocolates in seven European countries (Germany, France, Spain, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom) reveals that in Spain it grew more than in nowhere else the consumption of wine during the months of confinement: 17% compared to the same period of the previous year. “Here we drink the calories”, illustrates the dietitian and nutritionist Julio Basulto, and concludes: “We consume more calories from alcohol than from legumes”.

Is moderate consumption a good strategy with alcohol? Are meditation and meditation techniques useful? mindfulness (mindfulness) to drink less?

Scientific evidence is limited. In 2017, an experiment examined the results of giving 11 minutes of mindfulness to 68 heavy drinkers in the United Kingdom who, in fact, managed to significantly reduce their consumption in the following week. “Microdosing meditation may have helped them regulate their emotions and rely on mindfulness techniques, when they would normally have turned to alcohol to deal with stress,” wrote lead author Sunjeev Kamboj, a professor of psychology at University College of New York. London.

Basulto recently asked in a talk: Is that daily glass of wine healthy? The question, ironic and rhetorical, was answered by himself with convincing figures. Research published in the journal European Journal Of Public Health attributes to light or moderate alcohol consumption about 23,000 cases of cancer diagnosed in Europe in 2017. Almost half of them were breast tumors. The study is precise with the amounts and ensures that more than a third of cancers attributable to light or moderate alcohol consumption affected people who drank “less than one standard drink per day.” Another work of 2021 published in The Lancet Oncology finds that “moderate consumption”, for example, less than two beers a day, causes more than 100,000 cancers per year. Even low consumption, less than 10 grams of alcohol per day, is associated with more than 40,000 tumors.

The International Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) warns that “alcoholic beverages of all kinds have a similar impact on cancer risk, whether they are beers, wines, spirits or any other source of alcohol.” . In addition, it points out that “there is no threshold of consumption below which the risk does not increase, at least for some cancers.” A mega-study that brings together 1,500 investigations compiled by the Carlos III Health Institute also supports the theory of zero consumption and warns against the erroneous message of “responsible” consumption. We are in one of those exceptions to the rule: with alcohol, wisdom is not in the middle, neither in moderation nor in balance. Zero consumption is the only healthy strategy, even if it is not the most popular or the most fun. The transgression is not drinking.

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