ONS: 18 year-olds drink, smoke and socialise less than in 2000

Millennials drink less, smoke less and have less fun with their friends than their parents did amid warnings they are Britain’s ‘Generation Sensible’

  • Office for National Statistics report lays bare the changing habits of 18 year-olds
  • They spend more time on their computers and phones rather than out socialising
  • Smoking has also fallen out of fashion after the introduction of the ban in 2007

They have been dubbed ‘generation sensible’ – and the jibe appears to be true as analysis reveals 18 year-olds drink and smoke less than their parents did at their age. 

Britons born in the year 2000 also socialise less with their friends than those who turned 18 when the world celebrated the Millennium did.

Instead they spend more time glued to their screens on Facebook or other social media sites, or playing computer games, analysis by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said today.

The revelations are made today in a report which shows how the habits of Britain’s 18 year-olds contrast to those who turned 18 in the year 2000.

It shows that 18 year-olds in the millennium – where lad and ‘ladette’ culture reigned supreme – were ‘peak drinkers’.

But today’s young adults are far more puritan – shunning booze and pubs and spending more time playing sports and computer games instead. 

Analysis by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that 18 year-olds in the millennium – where lad and ‘ladette’ culture reigned supreme – were ‘peak drinkers’, but it has declined over the past nearly two decades 

In the year 2005, some 66 per cent of 18 to 24 year-olds questioned said they had drunk alcohol in the past week, but this slumped to 54 per cent in 2017.

Binge drinking is also less common – with 32 per cent of under 25s saying they had downed excessive amounts of alcohol in the past week in 2005, falling to 23 per cent in 2017.

And cigarettes have also fallen out of fashion. Around a third (34 per cent) of 18 to 24 year-olds were smokers in 2000, but this fell to 23 per cent in 2017.


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The dramatic decline has coincided with the ban on smoking indoors, which came into force in July 2007, and the rise of electronic cigarettes which some people use to try to kick the habit.

Although the downward trend has undergone a sudden reversal in the past year – increasing from 18 per cent in 2016 to 23 per cent last year. 

The sudden uptick comes amid warnings that some young people are being lured into smoking by electronic cigarettes – which come in a variety of fruity flavours.

The revelations come as the American authorities announced they could ban the sale of fruity e cigarette flavours in a bid to stop the devices appealing to youngsters.

Today’s ONS figures also show that 18 year-olds spend less time socialising and having fun with their friends than they used to.

In the year 2000, 18 year-olds spent on average nearly an hour and a half (88 minutes) hanging out with their friends.

But this has fallen to just over an hour (61 minutes) in the year 2015, the figures show. 

The ONS said that youngsters are spending more time glued to their screens or playing computer games than they used to, and less time socialising with their friends 

Rather than getting out of the house and socialising, 18 year-olds are spending far more time glued to their computer screans.

So, while in 2000 they spent on average 12 minutes a day ‘computing’  this has grown massively to nearly 29 minutes in 2015.

And while 18 year-olds used to just spend 11 minutes a day on ‘games and computer games’ this has soared to nearly 42 minutes.

The figures come amid concerns that young people are spending far too long on their computers and smart phones on Facebook and Snapchat.

ONS said: ‘The internet was a very different place at the start of the century – with no Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube or Instagram – and no smartphones or tablets to access it. 

‘The biggest changes to how 18-year-olds spend their time may be driven in part by the rise of digital technology.

‘Time 18-year-olds spent socialising, which includes meeting friends and family, visiting pubs or cafes, or talking on the phone, declined by 27 minutes per day between 2000 to 2001 and 2014 to 2015.

‘Time spent computing, which includes using social media, went up by 17 minutes per day, while 18-year-olds spent an additional 31 minutes playing games including computer games. 

‘There was also a rise in the amount of time spent on sport and exercise, up by 8 minutes per day. Perhaps another sign of “Generation Sensible”?’

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