Drinking games, keg parties, waking up in somebody else’s bed (somewhat you don’t recognize). Ahhh….adulthood? These images used to conjure up memories of those infamous college years, but according to a new study, it’s people in the post-college years who are partying the hardest. Collectively, these young adults are called “Cyber Millennials” and they are generally affluent, highly educated, and live in urban areas. Perhaps most surprisingly, they’re also some of the most health-conscious people in the country.
Researchers at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) used a technique called audience segmentation, which classifies people according to habits, lifestyles, and opinions, to find and label this cross-section of American society. It’s a method commonly used in the advertising world to identify and target a product’s demographic. The study combined data from a marketing research database with statistics out of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The criteria for heavy drinking? Five or more drinks in one sitting, at least twice in the past month (self-reported). The group that dominated this category was none other than the tech-savvy, Farmer’s Market-shopping, gym membership-toting Cyber Millennials.
“This is a new approach, which is exactly why this paper is so interesting,” added Vivian B. Faden, acting director of the Office of Science Policy and Communications at NIAAA. “Analyses such as this one may provide an important, additional way to identify high-risk drinkers by understanding the ‘social’ groups in which they are most likely to be found. Understanding these groups better and more broadly in terms of their habits, likes and dislikes, and shopping, entertainment and other preferences can help inform prevention efforts.”dme:relatedinfo side=”right” />
The curious fact is that members of the Cyber Millennials demo are otherwise healthy-habits role models. They have lower smoking rates, they exercise, they eat organic foods, they clearly don’t think downing tequila will turn their drink into diamonds, and yet, many of them are drinking decidedly unhealthy amounts of alcohol. Authors of the study suggest that the high drinking rates are carrying over from the late teen and college years, where drinking rates are known to be out of control, especially at “party schools”. They add that because Cyber Millenials have good incomes, they have the cash to buy round after round at the bar, or case after case at the liquor store.
Researchers suggest that doctors not gloss over the drinking habits of Cyber Millennials. On the contrary, health care practitioners should pay particular attention to younger patients, since they are the most likely to have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, based on unrealistic perceptions about what’s normal, and what’s safe. A short conversation between doctor and patient about appropriate alcohol use could reduce the risk of alcohol-related problems down the road. Or, maybe party hosts could wire up Bar2D2 to pour and serve a pre-designated number of beers. Another point in favor of sobriety: drinking ain’t sexy anymore.
While alcohol abuse is a serious problem, and Cyber Millennials are a high-risk group, none of this is to say that alcohol is forbidden. Don’t go put it on the bad list right between Trans Fat and Whopper. Just keep in mind that trendy, smart, healthy people can obliviously drink their way into bad health–and are doing so. Try to remember: Your tastes might just be more sophisticated than everyone else’s, but that doesn’t mean your liver is, too.