Are we the last generation of binge drinkers?

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And yet research shows that a sizeable number of Gen X women have no intention of cutting back. Minna, 52, a civil servant in West Yorkshire, has drunk a bottle of wine ‘every night [after the children’s bedtime] for at least the past decade’, since her two children, now 14 and 10, were young. ‘I’d like to cut down, but when I try I get so grumpy – it’s easier for everyone to have me happy. My husband has once or twice mentioned I might think about cutting back but [my] response was so ferocious, it’ll be a while before he tries again. It’s not great, but wine is my reward for quite a challenging life.’

Research suggests that excessive alcohol consumption is contributing to as many as one in seven divorces. Lizzie, 56, is happily married, but her husband has had ‘stiff words’ with her over her drinking. Part of the problem, she says, is she feels isolated; her children are 23 and 19 and she hopes to return to work. ‘I get carried away at parties – I’m often quite lonely in the day and when I go out, I want to let loose and have fun in the limited window before everyone goes home to their babysitters. I can’t think of anything that makes me feel so good, so quickly. Though the next day is painful.’

Which sums up the difference between the generations. Whereas many Gen Xers are culturally attuned to popping open a bottle to celebrate, unwind or switch off, other age groups are programmed with different go-tos. According to Jan Gerber, CEO of rehab centres Paracelsus, ‘being fit and healthy is a trend for the younger generation’. True: my 14-year-old’s hero is healthy-eating guru Deliciously Ella; at her age I idolised Bananarama, said to be an inspiration for Absolutely Fabulous.

Social media plays a part too. Millennials and Gen Zers who grew up in an online world fear losing control and being ‘drunk shamed’ on Instagram and Snapchat, something my generation never had to contend with. 

So are we the last generation to really know how to party but also the last to know when to stop? Gerber isn’t convinced. He points out that millennials and Gen Zers still like their highs. ‘This generation is most likely to experiment with new chemicals and drugs, whose effects can be so much more profound or intense, they make alcohol look “boring”.’ But, he adds, that phase may be temporary. ‘[Maybe] they’ll reconsider their relationship with drugs – and alcohol makes an easy substitute; it’s legal, readily accessible…’

And writing this, 36 hours after a 50th birthday party that was a riotous blur of champagne, wine and vodka and coffee shots and a couple of hugely cathartic hours on the dancefloor, surrounded by ecstatic middle-aged former ravers, I can’t help thinking the occasional retro blowout still has its place.

Want to keep a check on your drinking? 

Six signs you may be drinking too much

  1. You set alcohol limits that you’re not able to meet.
  2. Others make comments about how much you drink.
  3. You get defensive about your drinking.
  4. You regularly use alcohol to de-stress or relax.
  5. You routinely can’t remember the night before due to drinking too much.
  6. You feel guilty and ashamed about drinking.

… And four steps to drinking less

  1. Keep a drinks diary of when, how much and where you drank.
  2. Start with a realistic goal – say, ‘I will have an extra drink-free day this week’, then follow this up with another.
  3. Measure your drinks – buy measuring cups if necessary.
  4. Don’t buy alcohol in bulk.

If you’re worried about your drinking or someone else’s, visit wearewithyou.org.uk


Should ‘boozy midlifers’ call time on their drinking? Tell us in the comment section below.

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