Dri Gen and The New Temperance Movement

Magazine Archives
| Spring
2023 |
Volume 2,
Issue 1

Dri Gen and The New Temperance Movement

A major cultural shift away from alcohol is currently happening in the United States. The drivers stem from many sources, not least of which are the changing and more authentic and rebellious attitudes of the Millennial and Gen-Z generations who are leading the charge including Hilary Sheinbaum, Rachel Hechtman, Paige Danoff, Shea Gomez and others!

When major cultural shifts occur, it often appears as if they’ve emerged out of thin air. Most often the reality is that the undercurrents and whispers that led to the transformation were quietly gathering steam over long periods of time. The cultural shift in attitudes toward alcohol in the United States is no exception. The Dry January Movement, a challenge to stay abstinent from alcohol for 31 days, was introduced by Alcohol Change UK in 2013. It opened the door for a flow of international energy that, eight years later, modern technologies brought into global consciousness. The dry lifestyle movement, after almost a decade of quiet growth, achieved massive visibility in 2021.

During Covid, the American Psychological Association (APA) reported that 1 in 4 adults admitted drinking more to deal with pandemic stress. While Dry January had gained in popularity in its first eight years, 2021 was dubbed “Damp” January for its major increases in drinking, including a 41% rise in binge drinking among women. But what looked like an upward trend in drinking in the short run, turned around a year later. In 2022, Morning Consult reported that 27% of Millennials participated in Dry January, an 11% increase from the previous year, despite still dealing with heavy fallout from the pandemic. 

 

... a few decades later, the same survey found that nearly 40% of iGen students completing high school in 2016 had never tried alcohol, and that the number of eighth graders who had tried [it] decreased by nearly 50% compared with Gen X.

Twenge’s analysis of the Monitoring the Future (MtF) survey administered annually to 8th, 10th, and 12th graders by the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, found that the average Gen Xer—who came of age in the 1990s—had tried alcohol by eighth grade (around age 13). Drinking was already a part of this generation’s lives for at least eight years by the time they reached the legal U.S. drinking age. A few decades later, the same survey found that nearly 40% of iGen students completing high school in 2016 had never tried alcohol, and that the number of eighth graders who had tried alcohol decreased by nearly 50% compared with Gen X. Twenge notes that “iGen is the ideal place to look for trends that will shape our culture in the years to come…. With the popularity of the smartphone, iGen’ers differ in how they spend their time. Their life experiences are radically different from those of their predecessors.” iGen also differs in the way they consume media, the way they spend their dollars, and the platforms they have available to share their stories. These young people and leaders are actively using their platforms to challenge hundreds of years of cultural norms about alcohol consumption that date back to the founding of the United States. 

In December 2016, one such  leader, Hilary Sheinbaum, journalist, author, and on-air lifestyle expert, made a bet with one of her close friends to see who could complete Dry January the following month. “We were challenging ourselves to go through a month without alcohol,” she remembers. “I was a red carpet reporter covering events and going to after-parties with open bars of top shelf liquor and champagne. Living in New York in my 20s, I was attending birthdays, happy hours, networking events, and dates, which all included alcohol. Abstaining from something so prominent … is a challenge in itself.” The experience inspired her first book, The Dry Challenge: How to Lose the Booze for Dry January, Sober October, and Any Other Alcohol-Free Month, released by HarperCollins on December 29, 2020. “When I first did Dry January, I was one of those stereotypical people that wouldn’t shut up about it,” she laughs. “So instead of repeating it 100 times or being overbearing, I wrote this book as a guide.”

 

Hilary Sheinbaum

Photo courtesy: Hilary Sheinbaum
@hilarywritesny

Due to the timing of the release, Hilary’s plans for a conventional book tour quickly changed into a string of Zoom interactions. Unbound by geographic proximity to bookstores, she reached a broader audience with her sober message at the right moment. “When my book launched in the middle of the pandemic, some people were drinking heavily, but they weren’t quite yet examining their relationships with alcohol. 

2024 Spring Cover jpg

Millennials...and younger generations are starting to look at drinking the way the generation before us viewed smoking: uncool and unhealthy.

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