Younger Americans are drinking less, according to a new report from Gallup, which has long measured alcohol consumption by asking U.S. adults whether they “ever have occasion to use alcoholic beverages.” While the national average has held steady in the low 60% range for over 40 years, the age trends show that the rate has declined 10 percentage points over the past two decades among younger adults aged 18 to 34, falling from 72% to 62%.”
At the same time, older adults aged 55 and over have taken up the slack, going from 49% to 59% consumption. And those in-between, ages 35 to 54, have essentially maintained their drinking habits, with a 69% rate.
There’s a similar swing among consumers who were asked if they had an alcoholic drink within the last seven days (which indicates being a regular drinker per Gallup). In the 2001-2003 report, 67% said they had, while today that number is down to 61%. However, older Americans actually increased their response to that question by six percentage points since 2001.
Since this change in alcohol usage can significantly impact sales if you own a bar, restaurant, or liquor store, it’s important to know why it’s occurring. Gallup says the primary reason for the decline in drinking among young adults may be due to “the greater diversification of their racial/ethnic makeup.”
Gallup explains that the “percentage of 18- to 34-year-olds who are Black, Hispanic, Asian, or another racial minority has nearly doubled over the past two decades.” In the 2001-2003 report, ethnic minorities accounted for just under one-third of this age group. Today, they’re about 50%. And Gallup says, “Non-White Americans have persistently been less likely than White Americans to use alcohol”—among all age groups.
Another reason for the decline in alcohol consumption is likely to be health concerns. A Gallup survey from last month showed “a marked increase in Americans’ belief that even moderate drinking is bad for one’s health.” And “young adults are particularly concerned that moderate drinking is unhealthy, with 52% now holding this view, up from 34% five years ago.”
And finally, Gallup adds that the “increased use of marijuana in recent years could be a factor in the declining interest in alcohol” among young adults. Gallup reports, “Marijuana use has almost doubled among adults aged 18 to 34” since it first measured usage in 2013 to 25%.
Gallup says the bottom line is that middle-aged adults are today’s leading alcohol consumers, so consider shifting your marketing outreach and budget to this demographic.