Damp Lifestyle - a New Name for a Threat to the Alcohol Industry?

Young people appear to be embracing the call to drink in moderation. Alongside widely reported moves by Millennials and Gen Z towards being 'sober' and saying no to all alcohol, TikTok seems to be encouraging a trend to simply drink less.

Reading time: 2m 15s

Gen Z and Millennials saying no to alcohol (Photo: PX Media/stock.adobe.com)
Gen Z and Millennials saying no to alcohol (Photo: PX Media/stock.adobe.com)

Anyone in the business of making and selling alcohol should already be aware of terms like ‘sober-curious’ and ‘dry-January’. Now, they need to grapple with the concept of ‘damp drinking’. As the name suggests, the term, which has been popularised on TikTok, the platform most used by Millennials and Gen Z, the cohort beneath them in age, describes the trend to drinking less alcohol. It is the beverage sector equivalent to ‘flexitarian’ and its popularity as a concept is reflected in the fact that the hashtag #damplifestyle coined by a TikToker called Hana Elson, has, as Morning Consult reports, had over 42m views on the platform.

Readers outside the US and/or who were born much before the turn of the century will be forgiven for not having come across the concept of damp drinking. Indeed, in the Morning Consult poll in April 2023 of 6,471 U.S. adults who drink alcohol, only 15% said they were familiar with the term. This proportion rose to 31% of Millennials and 35% of Gen Z adults, with 3 in 10 among TikTok users (27%), as well as among millennials (31%) and Gen Z adults (35%) who drink alcohol. 

Baby boomers less likely to cut back

More significant than the term, are the numbers of respondents to the Morning Consult survey who said they were interested in trying out the damp lifestyle. While 44% of all participants expressed this view, the figure for Baby boomers was just 27%, compared to 55% for Gen Z and 61% for Millennials.

Breaking the responses down by gender and income the survey found that Gen Z men were – at 67% - more likely than Gen Z women to reduce their alcohol intake, while having more money at their disposal meant that US adults of all ages are more tempted to cut down their drinking. Only 39% of those with an income of under $50,000 say they are going to say no to another drink, compared to 54% of those declaring an income of over $100,000.


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Worrying about mental health

As for why they are looking at alcohol in  this way, health was a major issue. Two thirds of Gen Z respondents referred to mental health, with Millennials at 59% not far behind them. Physical health is of similar concern, followed by the desire to maintain a healthy weight.

When it comes to action, 61% of Millenials reported drinking alcohol, in the first quarter of 2023 – down from 65% the previous year, while the figure for Gen Z fell from 61% to 54%. Across the age ranges, a third, 31% said they expected to drink less this year.

It is easy to dismiss any individual survey but, as Emily Moquin, author of the Morning Consult report says “the concept of “damp drinking” is one more drop in the brimming “drinking in moderation” bucket. It is one driving force in bringing awareness to the specifics of drinking in moderation — whether that’s taking a break from drinking or alternating alcoholic drinks with nonalcoholic beverages like seltzer water or mocktails on nights out. These insights should be front and center for brands as they map out their strategy for winning over Gen Z and millennial consumers.”


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