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Drinking Habits

Millennials and Alcohol Use: Understanding the Trends

August 4, 2023
10 min read
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Written by
Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
August 4, 2023
10 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
August 4, 2023
10 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
August 4, 2023
10 min read
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Reframe Content Team
August 4, 2023
10 min read

Millennials — those born between the early 1980s and the mid 1990s — watched the world change dramatically as they grew up. They’ve been through Y2K, the rise of smartphones, and some pretty impressive trends in facial hair (hello, lumberjack chic)! This is the first generation to grow up with the internet as a fundamental part of life, witness the birth of social media, and live through the heartache of a buffering dial-up connection. They’re fluent in hashtags and emojis and can scroll, swipe, and type with ease. Yet — unlike the Gen Z who follow them — they also remember when phones were just, well, phones.

But what's going on in the minds of millennials when it comes to drinking? Do millennials drink more alcohol? And what are some millennial drinking trends? Research suggests that alcohol consumption among this group is a mixed bag. While overall rates of alcohol use are similar to previous generations, patterns of consumption are somewhat different. Let’s take a look.

The Anxious Generation

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Millennials, in general, report higher levels of stress than previous generations. They came of age during life-changing events such as 9/11 and the Columbine school shooting. From navigating a turbulent job market to dealing with the rising costs of housing and education, their life experiences haven't always been smooth sailing. Broadly speaking, they’re not the most mellow bunch. As a result, they’re often labeled the “anxious generation,” having come of age grappling with modern life’s more pressing problems and uncertainties.

This heightened anxiety is relevant when it comes to analyzing millennials’ drinking trends. Research suggests that emotional wellness influences drinking patterns. Chronic stress can make the brain more receptive to the effects of alcohol, leading some people to use drinking as a coping mechanism.

It's a tricky cycle. We feel stressed, so we reach for a drink to help us relax. But then the alcohol disrupts our sleep, leads to hangovers, and ultimately increases our stress levels. And before we know it, we’re reaching for another drink.

According to a report by a nonprofit wine council, millennials drink almost half of all wine in the U.S., finishing off up to 3.1 glasses of wine in a single sitting. Women accounted for two-thirds of wine consumed by this age group — ladies imbibed approximately 160 million cases of wine in 2015 alone.

Millennials’ Drinking Trends

Millennials and the Alcohol Industry

Why do millennials drink so much? Another reason might have to do with the alcohol industry. As millennials approached adulthood, the alcohol industry kept a close eye on their drinking patterns. Social drinking after work has become an integral part of their lifestyle, with outings often posted on social media — a trend that hadn't previously existed. 

These shifts prompted industries to modify both manufacturing and advertising methods, as there was clearly money to be made. When choosing a venue for happy hour or an after-work drink, millennials consider features such as knowledgeable bartenders, special drink offers, and exclusive beverages. Alcohol brands have been capitalizing on these changing habits and a pronounced social drinking preference to enhance their brand value.

In the United States, the alcoholic drinks market yields approximately $12 billion in annual sales. Though millennials constitute just about a quarter of adults over 21, they are responsible for over 35% of total beer consumption and 32% of all spirit consumption in the country.

The Wellness Shift

But let's not forget that millennials are also the wellness generation. They’ve embraced everything from yoga to clean eating, and this focus on health is also impacting how they relate to alcohol. Many millennials are becoming more mindful of their drinking, choosing to moderate or even abstain from alcohol as a way to maintain their overall wellbeing.

This wellness trend has also led to the rise of the sober-curious movement and an explosion in alcohol-free alternatives. From non-alcoholic beers to zero-proof spirits, these options offer a way to enjoy the social aspect of drinking without the negative effects of alcohol.

One trend we're seeing is a move towards drinking less, but drinking better. There's a growing emphasis on quality over quantity, with a shift from volume (think college keggers) to value (hello, artisanal craft beers and fancy mixology concoctions). However, it's important to note that this trend towards "drinking better" can also pose a problem when it comes to moderating alcohol intake.

Understanding Your Relationship With Alcohol

How can we understand our own relationship with alcohol? First, it's important to recognize that everyone is different. Some people may be able to enjoy a drink now and then without any problems, while others may struggle to control their intake. And that's okay.

One helpful approach can be to keep a drinking diary, noting when and why you drink. This can help you spot patterns and identify triggers. Another step is to pay attention to how you feel after drinking. Do you feel refreshed and relaxed, or are you left feeling sluggish and foggy? The goal here isn't to judge yourself, but to gain insight into your own behaviors and feelings around alcohol.

Steps Towards Better Alcohol Habits

Ready to get started on your journey to a healthier relationship with alcohol? Here are some practical ways to get started:

  • Explore alcohol-free alternatives. If you find yourself missing the ritual of a drink, try some of the many non-alcoholic options available. This can help you maintain the social aspect of drinking, without the negative effects of alcohol.
  • Build a stress management toolbox. Since stress can often trigger drinking, it’s beneficial to find other ways to cope. This might include exercise, meditation, or simply taking time out to relax.
  • Set clear goals. Whether it's reducing the amount you drink, choosing certain days to be alcohol-free, or abstaining completely, a clear goal can give you a sense of purpose and direction.
  • Reach out for support. If you're finding it hard to change your drinking habits, don't hesitate to seek help. This could be a trusted friend, a healthcare professional, or an app like Reframe that's designed to support you in your journey.
  • Change is a process, not an event. Every step we take towards understanding your relationship with alcohol is a step towards better overall well-being. To all millennials: let’s celebrate our collective wellness, our individual journeys, and our ability to redefine trends in the most fabulous of ways!

Ready To Redefine Your Relationship With Alcohol?

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol.

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

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At Reframe, we do science, not stigma. We base our articles on the latest peer-reviewed research in psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral science. We follow the Reframe Content Creation Guidelines, to ensure that we share accurate and actionable information with our readers. This aids them in making informed decisions on their wellness journey.
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