Generational distinctions are a bit arbitrary; the cutoff for each generation changes depending on where you look, and there are so many people in each age group that anything about them is a generalization. Still, there are trends within each age range that reflect changing cultural norms.
Drinking Used to Increase, But is Now Decreasing
As there is more dialogue about our culture’s obsession with alcohol and the problems it causes, drinking habits are on a downward trend. Millennials drink less than gen x, baby boomers, and the silent generation—and gen z drinks even less than millennials.
In the past, alcohol consumption actually went up between generations. It’s been known for many years that baby boomers (now about 57-75) drink more than the generation preceding them, the silent generation (now about 76-93). 
When baby boomers were coming of age in the 60’s and 70’s, experimentation with substances was more mainstream. Historically, drinking and using drugs weren’t seen as a problem for older generations, but baby boomers have brought the substance use habits they learned young into their later years.
People are living longer—and as such feeling younger at various stages than earlier generations. As said in an article by the Chicago Tribune, “When 70 is the new 50, it’s still cocktail hour when the sun crosses the yardarm.”
The stereotype about generation x (now about 41-56) is that they are invisible, and that rang true in my research; it was very difficult to find any concrete information on how much they drink. However, we do know that millennials (about 25-40) and gen z (about 9-24) are drinking less than previous generations—which I assume includes gen x.
Drinking Habits Went Down With Millennials, Going Down More With Gen Z
With the proliferation of social media and the internet, there is so much more information available to us. This has opened the conversation about alcohol and health. Originally, it sparked the “sober curious” movement, which seems to be more of a millennial thing. While there is undoubtedly still drinking going on in younger generations, it’s more common for people from gen z to forgo alcohol altogether.
I’m 34, so I’m a millennial. Through most of my 20’s, these conversations around alcohol culture hadn’t really begun; they were in their infancy in my late 20’s. It was still expected that drinking (in many cases, a lot) was what you did when you socialized. I got sober at 28, and only one friend had gotten sober before me. Sometimes people need to get into their 30’s and beyond to realize their drinking is a problem, but more of my generation is now evaluating their use, even if they don’t have an addiction.
In the scheme of things, it hasn’t been that long since, but the discourse has changed significantly. The market has caught up; now there are tons of craft non-alcoholic beers that weren’t around just a few years ago. Even people in my age range who are not in recovery will sometimes drink them at parties.
Three or four years ago, when the sober curious movement was really gaining traction, many gen z-ers were in their teens or just entering their 20’s. This is often when people start drinking, so their generation has had a different framework early on. I’ve also seen speculation that because gen z grew up with social media, they are more conscious of not getting drunk in case embarrassing evidence shows up online.
Both of our generations (millennials and gen z) grew up watching older generations drink and are aware of alcohol’s potential to cause problems; some had parents with alcohol use disorder. Many of us have grown disillusioned with the alcohol industry’s attempts to sell to us—“jokes” like “it’s 5 pm somewhere.”
The other generation alive today, generation alpha (about 8 and younger) is (let’s hope) too young to drink. But as the conversation around alcohol evolves, hopefully they will continue the downward trend.
As the conversation around alcohol culture changes, it also helps reduce stigma for those of us with alcohol use disorder. In older generations, being seen as an alcoholic was shameful. While we still have work to do, this too seems to be shifting—making it safer for people struggling with alcohol to get sober.
If you are struggling with an alcohol use or mental health disorder, there is help and hope. TruHealing Centers offers high-quality treatment for mental health disorders and addiction in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will help you thrive sober, no matter your age. To learn more, call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.