LONDON: Young British adults smoke and drink far less than their counterparts from a generation ago, are more likely to attend university and spend less time socialising, according to an official study.

Analysis published last week by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which compared the habits of today’s 18-year-olds with those of the same age in 2000, revealed that the amount of time spent socialising – meeting friends and family, going to the pub or café – declined by 27 minutes per day between 2000-01 to 2014-15.

Over the same period, the amount of time these older teenagers spent on computers each day increased by 17 minutes while their time spent playing games, including computer games, increased by 31 minutes a day.

Today’s 18-year-olds exercise more – if only by an extra eight minutes per day – and they spend about 26 minutes less a day watching TV or films or listening to the radio, the report added.

“The internet was a very different place at the start of the century – with no Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube or Instagram – and no smartphones and tablets to access it,” the report said. “The biggest changes to how 18-year-olds spend their time may be driven in part by the rise of digital technology.”

Turning to smoking and drinking rates among young Britons aged 18 to 24 compared with the past, the ONS researchers noted that about 18% smoked in 2017, or nearly half of the 35% of young adults who smoked in 2000.

And only about half (53%) of 18- to 24-year-olds surveyed in 2017 had drunk alcohol in the previous week compared with two-thirds (66%) in 2005, the year the ONS first started measuring drinking habits.

Binge-drinking is also declining, the ONS added, after noting that back in 2005 a third (32%) of young people had binged in the previous week whereas the figure for 2017 had come down to less than one in four.

Taken together with the evidence that young people are now spending more time exercising, the ONS asked whether this was a sign of the emergence of a “Generation Sensible”.

Sourced from ONS; additional content by WARC staff