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New study shows drinking a beer a day shrinks our brains

It’s probably a good thing Gen-Z isn’t drinking as much as their older counterparts.

While it’s still a little too early to quantify how many of us will ultimately opt out of trips to the pub, it looks like the Gen-Z’ers old enough to queue up for a pint aren’t so keen.

Studies by market researchers have revealed that 84 percent of Gen-Z shoppers are regularly purchasing alcohol, compared to 90 percent of their Millennial predecessors. This 6-point difference may seem insignificant, but it has left distributors of alcohol scrambling for sharper marketing tactics.

Sales aside, Gen-Z might be onto something by avoiding the bubbly. While some scientific researchers promote the health benefits of moderate drinking, others warn that as alcohol consumption increases, so does our brain’s ability to do its job.

But the latest discovery suggests just one pint a day has the potential to disrupt the function of grey matter (the bit of our brain that processes information), can slow down neurons (which send messages between different brain parts), and is shrinking the overall structure of the brain.

The study was conducted by The University of Pennsylvania and focused on 36,000 people living in the UK. In a shocking discovery, it found that ‘light-to-moderate alcohol consumption was associated with reductions in overall brain volume.’

Yes, alcohol has the ability to speed up the natural process of your brain getting smaller with age.

Before you start panic-counting all the drinks you downed over the weekend, it’s worth noting that while those participating were in perfect health, they were around 50 years old, nearing the age where our brains naturally begin to shrink.

That said, the research found that when the amount of alcohol consumed by an individual rose beyond 1 unit (half a beer, for example) to 2 units (a pint beer / glass of wine), it resulted in neurological changes in the brain that are equivalent to two years of ageing.

Indeed, it’s a scary finding, one that Gen-Z likely wouldn’t worry too much about for the next three or four decades. But for some reason we’re already witnessing Gen-Z skipping out on drinking altogether – so the question left to ask is: why?

Saving face and money

In the midst of the hype around social media’s debut, Millennials had a tendency to overshare their party-life online – posting videos of friends performing reckless drunken activities or passed out in bed under a pile of random household objects.

As time went on, these behaviours became less amusing amongst social circles and (left undeleted) had potential to raise a digital red-flag in the eyes of employers.

Hopping onto social media from an early age, Gen-Z has learned to carefully curate their online identity. Being caught on camera looking sloppy isn’t something that would add value to their timeline, making binge drinking seem highly unappealing.

For others, rising tax on alcohol has made casual drinking too much of a wallet-draining activity. One university student told The Guardian that her drinking habits dipped after first year simply because going out is expensive, exhausting, and repetitive.

In place of clubbing, Gen-Z finds bonding activities more fulfilling. Another student said that hanging out with friends in a chilled, relaxed setting, listening to music, and playing video or board games is far preferred to intense clubs.

Not to mention, entering the legal drinking age during a pandemic has made some of Gen-Z miss the partying mark. This has resulted in far more socially conscious generation interested in connecting online, picking up new hobbies, or learning more about global issues.

Alcohol competes with health & wellness trends

While there will always be exceptions to this abstinence from drinking, it’s fair to say that most of Gen-Z just doesn’t fancy starting their day with a pounding headache.

Although hangovers tend to get worse as we age – leaving much of Gen-Z relatively unscathed for the time being – one thinktank found Gen-Z is limiting alcohol because they are more concerned with their health.

Bear in mind, the global wellness market has an estimated worth of $1.5 trillion and is projected to continue growing by 5-10 percent each coming year, with most marketing done in online spaces where young people spend their time.

Gen-Z wants clean skincare and green smoothies, not caked on makeup and Jāgerbombs. With TikTok, Twitter, and Instagram as their trilogy of resources, Gen-Z has no shortage health and beauty hacks to help look and feel their best – and I can guarantee none of them include alcohol.

Finally, alcohol is known to worsen depression and anxiety. For an age group that already feels overwhelmed by having to right the wrongs of previous generations, it’s pretty clear that getting wasted wouldn’t be the best use of their time.

So while the rest of us dinosaurs sip apprehensively at our glass of Pino later on and wonder if we’re prematurely shrinking our brains, Gen-Z will be busy making memories that will last a lifetime due to their lack of alcohol intake.

You’ve got to hand it to them, these kids know how to party.


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