Why Is So Much Of Our Social Lives Drinking?

Summertime is the time for socializing, and socializing today often revolves around alcohol.

By Meghan Dillon3 min read
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Shutterstock/Creative Nina

Whether you’re grabbing drinks with friends, having White Claws on the beach, or having a beer at a baseball game (beer just tastes better at sporting events), much of our social life revolves around alcohol. Though it can be fun to let loose with a couple of drinks with friends in moderation, what does it say about our social culture and health?

Do We Always Have To Get Drinks?

I enjoy getting drinks as much as the next twenty-something and love having a drink or two with family and friends, but my question is, why does it always have to be getting drinks? I understand getting drinks is less of a commitment because it’s nearly impossible to escape dinner when you realize that the guy is crazy five minutes in (and dinner is also super expensive), but does it have to be getting drinks every time?  When it comes to friends, does it always have to be catching up at happy hour or getting brunch with bottomless mimosas?

I personally prefer coffee for a first date or catching up with friends (unless I’ve known the friend for several years and know nothing will get out of hand), but coffee dates are usually saved for weekends and days off, and we don’t all have the luxury of easily scheduling a coffee date. Getting drinks on a first date or to catch up with a friend makes sense because most of us have an hour to spare when we get off work. 

Unfortunately, this has led to the normalization of casual drinking, which isn’t good for our health and can lead to developing destructive habits. Though moderate alcohol consumption doesn’t make much of a difference in our health, drinking regularly can easily turn into alcohol abuse. 

You’ve probably heard alcohol referred to as a “social lubricant” — it does help you to relax and converse more easily after all. And it’s great for decompressing after a long day. Getting drinks can be a good way to be more relaxed when meeting someone new or when socializing after a stressful work week. But drinking becomes problematic when it becomes a crutch. If you can’t socialize without a wine glass in your hand, or you can’t decompress in other healthy ways, then getting drinks has gotten out of hand.

The social pressures of having a drink or two (or five) whenever you go out with friends or on a date can make it hard to say no to a drink, but it’s possible to avoid abusing alcohol by being honest with your peers. I usually limit myself to one or two drinks when I go out because I’m a lightweight and can’t handle alcohol like I could in my early twenties (RIP to the days when I could drink a bottle of wine and not be hungover at work the next morning), and setting these boundaries can be a healthy way of enjoying yourself. If your peers don’t accept your decisions, they’re not worth being around. Life is too short to deal with people who encourage you to surpass boundaries around your health.

Millennials and Gen Z Have a Different Relationship with Alcohol (and It’s Not a Good One)

Thanks to the popularity of hard seltzers like White Claw and wine brands catering to young women through the popularization of rosé (no shade, both are delicious), Millennials and older Gen Zers have a different relationship with alcohol than their older counterparts. Millennials are more likely to enjoy drinks like wine, vodka, and whiskey over beer and are more adventurous when it comes to trying new types and brands of drinks, and this trend has passed on to Gen Zers in their early twenties.

Though there isn’t a lot of research regarding Gen Zers and alcoholism (probably because the majority of them haven’t turned 21 yet), there’s plenty of research on Millennials and alcoholism/alcohol abuse. According to Peaks Recovery Center, a treatment center in Colorado, Millennial alcohol abuse is a real problem: “The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states that young adults make up 31% of all alcoholics. Just like how parents and older generations drink at home after a long day, so do Millennials. However, they drink more during the weekends and any other event that involves a good time. The craft beer and craft cocktails made today can create an even larger drinking culture and status than ever before. Today’s college-age kids take more alcohol, college students drink more, and even young professionals in the job market drink excess alcohol than previous generations.”

The post continues, “The question many people still ask is what has led to the quick rise of alcoholics among young adults. Letting Millennials continue with their drinking habits citing a natural growth stage could lead to a lifelong problem of alcoholism or even death. Millennials show no significant signs of quitting their drinking habits, but it typically lessens over time.”

Why are Millennials drinking so much? Is it just the easy accessibility and wide range of alcohol? Is it because social drinking is our cultural norm? Do we just want to take the edge off of life? Or does it represent bigger cultural issues, like the delay of marriage, family life, and responsibility, comfort with credit card debt, or trauma from broken families or hookup culture?

Closing Thoughts

Though the majority of our social lives revolve around alcohol, this doesn’t mean we need to sacrifice our health or our relationship with alcohol to have a social life. There’s nothing wrong with drinking in moderation, and it’s important to set boundaries around drinking in social situations to prevent ourselves from going overboard.

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