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Gallup Poll Finds Decrease in Alcohol Consumption Among Young Adults as Marijuana Use Increases

Fewer young adults responding to the Gallup poll are drinking alcohol as more embrace marijuana and shun the health risks of intoxicating fluids, the company reported Tuesday.

Among adults under 35 who responded to the company’s latest three-year survey on consumption, 62% said they had ever imbibed adult beverages, down from 72% two decades ago.

Young adults also reported less frequent drinking and were less likely to consume excess amounts of alcohol than in the past, the polling company found. Within the 18-34 age group, the average number of drinks fell from 5.2 per week in 2001-2003 to 3.6 in 2021-2023.

Overall, 61% of young adults reported having a drink in the past week, down from 67% in 2001-2003. Combined with the declining number who said they ever drank, Gallup estimated that the share who consume too much alcohol fell from 21% to 13% of young adults over the same period.

Pollsters attributed the trend to a larger share of non-Whites in the age group — noting that they traditionally drink less than White Americans — and to growing health concerns about alcohol among young people. They also pointed to the surging popularity of marijuana use among younger generations.

“Growing public concern about the health risks of drinking, particularly among young adults, could be behind these shifts,” Gallup said.
By contrast, the percentage of drinkers among adults 55 and older increased by 10 points in the poll, jumping from 49% to 59% over the past 20 years.

The share of drinkers aged 35 to 54 increased from 67% to 69% over the same period. In 2011-2013, that age group passed young adults to become the likeliest age group to imbibe.

“This pattern is a change from two decades ago when younger adults were the most likely to be regular drinkers and older adults the least,” Gallup said.

Gallup noted that marijuana use increased from 14% of young adults in 2013 — when the polling company first surveyed the issue — to 25% in 2021-2023. Marijuana use increased from 4% to 17% among middle-aged adults over the same period.

“Still, it’s possible young marijuana users smoke it (or use it in other ways) more often than middle-aged users, making marijuana more of a replacement drug for alcohol for them,” Gallup said.

Gallup conducted a randomized national telephone survey of over 1,000 people from each age group between 2021 and 2023. For each of the three age groups, the margin of error ranged from plus or minus 3 to 6 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

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