Are young people in Wales turning their backs on alcohol?

More people are giving up alcohol in Wales
More and more young people are cutting back on alcohol, according to a recent study. 

By Indigo Jones and Eyitemi Smith

Four young people in Wales have spoken out about their decision to stay sober as a recent study shows more and more people in their age group are cutting back on alcohol.

Research by the Portman Group shows almost a quarter of British drinkers want to reduce their alcohol intake, with almost a third of those aged 18-24.

Caitlin Regola from Carmarthenshire defines herself as teetotal. She is considered to be part of “generation sensible” - a label frequently given to teenagers and young people in the UK. 

“The hangxiety the day after was one of the main reasons I stopped drinking. I don't really have good mental health, so alcohol added to that so I stopped drinking, ”she said.

The sober student from Llanelli says she is often faced with criticism for not drinking on nights out.

Caitlin Regola has chosen to give up alcohol

She said: "There is definitely more stigma now for non-drinkers compared to people who drink. Everyone around me knows me as being teetotal but they keep asking if I'm going to drink, or trying to encourage me to drink on a night out.

“Being teetotal, I feel a bit like an outsider. I don't feel like I’m part of any community. I can't relate to a lot of people the same age as me, because everything social is related to drinking or going out.

"Non-alcoholic beverages help me feel like I fit in a bit more, it gives the impression of drinking but without the alcohol."

Will Parry is also sober after having a difficult relationship with alcohol from an early age. 

He has shared his personal experience on YouTube after realising he was addicted to alcohol at the age of 19 at university.

Will Parry realised he was an alcoholic whilst at university.

Will said: "It's like the story of the chicken and the egg, which comes first, you have very poor mental health and addiction, or vice versa.

"And to be honest, I think I had a bad history with drinking, and then poor mental health, which was basically a platform for becoming an alcoholic so fast."

After deciding to give up alcohol, Will chose to have one last night out to get it out of his system. However, the day after he had an 'alcohol withdrawal seizure' and was taken to hospital.

Will, who is now 22 years old and has been sober for more than two years, says he is realising the effects that alcohol has on his mental and physical health.

'You can become addicted to something, whether you're 20 or you're 60'

He said: "I think people are less critical, and they don't care why you don't drink. But then again you look at it and you realise - how many alcohol service groups are out there at universities? How much support do you get for addiction, how much can you find out about addiction at 20-years-old?

"Being an alcoholic is not just being a 45-year-old homeless man on the street. I think people have to understand that you can become addicted to something, whether you're 20 or you're 60. It doesn't matter.”

"The culture of binge drinking in Britain has been around for generations. People now understand the effects of addiction much more, they understand the effects of alcoholism.

Despite headlines about an increase in alcohol consumption in 2019, the Bacardi 2020 Global Brand Ambassador Survey reveals that bar workers feel the pandemic has accelerated the 0% alcohol trend.

Conor Isak works in a number of pubs and nightclubs in Cardiff and has seen a trend in fewer people in their 20s going out.

Although Conor works in a bar, he doesn't drink.

He said: "With young people, especially those who have turned 18 during the pandemic, they feel like they missed out on the opportunity to be 18 and so they overdo it.

The Cardiff bar worker says he is teetotal after giving up alcohol to focus on his mental health.

Although Conor works in a bar, he doesn't drink.

"I went a little overboard too early in my life. So it had started to have a less desirable effect on me and my mental health, so I just had to stop and I haven't touched it since, "he said.

Conor said it would make sense to start running alcohol-free nights at nightclubs across Wales, but he is unsure whether they would work.

"A lot of Welsh culture comes from drinking events like rugby and singing. A lot of Welsh stereotypes come from alcohol and people know Wales for its nights out, especially in England and Scotland. I don't think anything will soon stop the Welsh from drinking."

Catrin Jôbs-Davies initially quit alcohol in December 2020 for a month - but she has since been sober for more than a year.

She said: "Everyone is familiar with 'Dry January', and I have tried many times in the past, and I’ve failed. I failed on January 1 to be honest.

Catrin uploads pictures of various non-alcoholic drinks on her instagram with English and Welsh captions.

"But I did stick to it this time and I think a lot has to do with the fact that I have kids myself now and I want to make it work."

The Colwyn woman has documented her non-alcoholic journey on her Welsh language Instagram account, where she shares her non-alcoholic story that inspires others to get sober too.

Catrin uploads pictures of various non-alcoholic drinks with English and Welsh captions.

She continued: "I was looking at different English language websites, and I realised that there was nothing showing those things in the Welsh language. My wife just said 'well you’re better off starting one yourself'."

She started the account to share different alcohol-free options and to inspire others who are going through the same sober journey.

'I think it's part of Welsh culture'

She said: "I get a lot of feedback - people contact me and everything. It's a catalyst for me to carry on because obviously there's interest.

"I was aware I was drinking too much for myself, but it's important to clarify that the relationship with alcohol for everyone is unique and something personal. So something that I think is too much for me might not be too much for the next person.

“I think it's part of Welsh culture. I've grown-up going to Young Farmers for example and drinking heavily was something I often did from a young age.

"It's not just in Wales - but you can't even go to the national Eisteddfod without passing a bar now, so I do think it's part of Welsh culture."