NOTE: This content is old - Published: Wednesday, Jul 17th, 2013.
Young people are drinking more than ever before, scream the headlines. Binge-drink Britain is plagued by cheap alcohol and inebriate youngsters.
Except it isn’t true. Unnoticed by the mainstream media, Britain is actually sobering up.
Since 2004, there has been a 16 percent reduction in the amount of booze we consume. For the first time since 1998, we now drink less thaneight litres per person per year.
The decline in boozing has been most dramatic among the young. Back in 2001, over a quarter of 11 – 15 year olds reported that they had drunk alcohol over the previous week. Today it is less than half that.
What’s gone right?
It can’t be the cost. While living standards have fallen since the financial crisis began, booze is actually more affordable now for more people than ever before. The stuff they sell in certain supermarkets has never been cheaper.
Those in Westminster keen to impose minimum alcohol pricing as a means of reducing how much we drink will need to find some other reason to boss us about. Not only is alcohol consumption falling without a statutory minimum price, the reduction seems to have little to do with price at all.
My hunch is that the decline in drinking is to do with the arrival of the internet. I can’t help notice that the fall in alcohol consumption coincided with the arrival of broadband. Around about the time (almost) everyone started to get fast internet access, people – and in particular young people – began to drink less.
Broadband gives everyone an enormous range of affordable entertainment options; music to listen to, films to watch and people to communicate with. Back in the days when young people had a choice between seeing if there was anything they wanted to watch on one of four TV channels, or heading off down the pub, many more folk went off to the pub.
Of course, there are still localised problems with excessive drinking – including in Clacton town centre in my own constituency. But speaking to a local charity that tries to work with alcohol abusers, they point out that it is actually older drinkers, not the young, who now give most cause for concern.
Cheer up! The internet is making the world a better place in all kinds of weird and unexpected ways.
Blog post was written by Douglas Carswell and first appeared in the Daily Telegraph – He was first elected to Parliament in 2005 by a slender 920 votes. He was returned as MP for Clacton in 2010 with a 12,000 majority. He is the author of The End of Politics and the Birth of iDemocracy and believes that the internet is making the world a vastly better place.