Germany is famous for its drinking culture. It’s one of few countries in the world where consuming alcohol in public is legal – in fact, it’s on sale everywhere from supermarkets to cinemas, with the price of a beer often about the same as a bottle of water. But that German fondness for the sauce seems to be dwindling among the younger generation, according to a new study by Germany’s Federal Center for Health Education.
Young people in the same country that’s known for booze-fueled festivals such as carnival and Oktoberfest are drinking less on average, statistics say. Last year, only 10 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds drank regularly, or at least once a week, about twice as few as in 2004.
The number of teens who had not tried alcohol at all also went up, with more than a third of those surveyed saying they hadn’t yet tried a tipple, be it beer, wine or schnapps.
“Alcohol makes (people) tired and fat, which young people today are not interested in,” Johannes Lindemeyer, director of the Salus Clinic specializing in addiction, said, according to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. “Being active, being able to stay up late, being fit – and showing it – all of this is becoming more important for young people.”
According to the study, the average age for a first sip is 14, essentially in line with German laws on consumption. Underage drinking in private is not legislated at all, while 14-year-olds are already allowed to drink alcoholic beverages such as beer and wine, so long as they are accompanied by a custodial person. The legal age for drinking alone is 16.
These laws are in a direct contrast to the United States, where the drinking age of 21 is taken so seriously that in some states, drinking underage can be prosecuted with a $5,000 fine or up to a year in prison. Excessive drinking has been identified as a major problem nationwide. The number of people aged 18 and older reportedly binge-drinking has grown at an alarming rate, and comes with the risk of negative health and social effects.
While drinking among German youth is declining, overall consumption in the country appears to be on the rise, according to new World Health Organization statistics. Annual per capita consumption hit 11.4 liters in 2016, just slightly higher than 10.6 liters in 2015. Germany came in 25th in the world for alcohol consumption, behind neighbors France and Czech Republic, with Lithuania coming in first place at 18.2 liters.