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Drinking Habits

Understanding Alcohol Use Trends in Gen X Drinkers

August 3, 2023
9 min read
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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 3, 2023
9 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 3, 2023
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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 3, 2023
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Reframe Content Team
August 3, 2023
9 min read

We hear a lot about Baby Boomers and Millennials. But sandwiched in between these two generations is what is often referred to as the “forgotten generation”: Generation X. This generation — those born between 1965 and 1980 — comprises roughly 19% of people in the United States and includes more than 65 million people. While relatively small, they’re projected to surpass Baby Boomers in population by 2028.

Despite being overshadowed by the larger generations above and below them, Gen Xers have their own unique characteristics, including drinking habits. So are there signs of Gen Z drinking less than their grandparents? And what is the most sober generation? Let’s take a look at the alcohol use trends in Gen X drinkers.

Trend #1: Increased Consumption of Alcohol

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One of the most notable trends among Gen Xers is their increased consumption of alcohol compared to other generations. A study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that the percentage of Gen Xers who reported drinking alcohol in the past month increased from 56% in 2002 to 60% in 2014.

Trend #2: Preference for Wine

Another trend among Gen Xers is their preference for wine over other types of alcohol, particularly beer. In fact, they purchase more wine than any other generation, including Baby Boomers (who traditionally were top wine drinkers). One study found that Gen Xers are the largest consumers of wine in the United States, with 48% of Gen Xers reporting that they drink wine at least once a month.

Furthermore, another report indicates that Gen X purchased 13% more wine than any other generation between 2017-2019. Interestingly, Gen Xers are more likely to make wine purchases based on their established tastes and preferences, compared to millennials, who tend to follow industry trends.

According to Drizly, an online alcohol retailer, Gen X buys a greater share of red and white still wine than other generations. Some of the top selling red wines include Josh Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Meiomi Pinot Noir, Caymus Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Decoy Cabernet Sauvignon, and La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir.

Popular white wines among Gen X consumers include Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc, Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio DOC, Cavit Pinot Grigio, and Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc.

Trend #3: Highest “Purchasing Potential”

Gen X is also said to hold greater immediate “purchasing potential” than its younger counterparts. This is largely because they have greater financial resources at their disposal compared to younger generations. In fact, Gen X maintains the highest average household income of all the generations, with a spending power of $2.4 trillion (yes, trillion-with-a-T!)

This makes them the leading demographic in wine and fine wine consumption. They tend to appreciate the “finer” things, and they’re known for being prime luxury consumers who value exclusivity. In general, they’re willing to spend more for quality wine.

One poll found that 27% of Gen X consumers reported that in the past two years they had been buying more expensive beer and wine than normal. Interestingly, Gen X also reportedly makes more winery visits than other generations, such as the Millennials.

Drinking Trends in Generation X

Trend #4: Whisky and Vodka Are Popular Spirits

While Gen X has a strong preference for wine, they also take the lead when it comes to sales of whiskey and vodka compared to other generations. Some data suggests that Gen X over-indexes within the whiskey category on bourbon and Canadian whisky. On the other hand, Gen X under-indexes on tequila and ready-to-drink cocktails, both of which are popular with younger generations.

Trend #5: They Are “Responsible” Drinkers

Interestingly, despite their increased consumption of alcohol, Gen Xers are largely still considered “responsible drinkers.” A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that Gen-Xers are less likely to engage in excessive or binge drinking (defined as consuming five or more drinks in a single sitting for men, and four or more for women) than younger generations.

Trend #6: Drinking To Relax

According to polling, Gen Xers cite relaxation as one of the main reasons for consuming alcohol, compared to millennials and Gen Z, who cite drinking for special occasions or to feel comfortable around other people. As such, Generation X is more likely to drink by themselves, second only to Baby Boomers.

So does Gen Z drink less? Gen Z alcohol consumption surveys seem to say so. In fact, they can even be called the most sober generation!

Trend #7: Preference for Familiar Drinks and Categories

Overall, Generation X reflects an overall preference for familiar drinks and categories. For instance, they’re less inclined than younger generations to try newer alcoholic categories, such as hard seltzer. When it comes to drinking beer, Gen X leads toward the light lager and American-style lager categories, compared to craft beers. However, some data indicates that all generations — including Gen X — are increasingly shifting toward above-premium and craft beers.

The Bottom Line

Generation X is relatively small in number, but is consuming more alcohol than other generations. Gen Xers have a strong preference for wine, and they’re concerned more about quality and exclusivity than trends. While they are largely considered “responsible drinkers” by not engaging in excessive drinking, they are still purchasing and consuming large volumes of alcohol.

Even without drinking excessively, alcohol can cause long-term effects on our physical and mental health. It puts us at a greater risk for developing heart disease, cancer, liver disease, and brain damage.

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