'We are young and we don't drink'

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Media captionIf a night out is boring it's because you're with boring people, says non-drinker Allan Faulds. (Video shot and edited by the BBC's Nick Sheridan)

Britain's booze problems are well documented, with alcohol misuse costing the NHS more than £4bn every year. However, one in five UK adults do not drink and young people are more likely than any other age group to keep off the strong stuff. Why is that? We speak to three young teetotallers.

'Mum's addiction pushed me over the edge'

Image copyright Derryn Balmer
Image caption Derryn says he is in a much better place with his mental health now

Derryn Balmer, 17, decided to be alcohol-free after the impact it had on his childhood. He had to move in with his grandparents at the age of 11 due to his mum's alcoholism.

"I knew about it and hid it from everyone for a long time before her addiction pushed me over the edge. I was depressed and breaking down in primary school about it.

"I've dealt with and overcome a lot through all of this and I've always wanted to avoid alcohol my whole life."

Derryn, who is currently studying Sound Production at Ayrshire College, is an aspiring hip-hop and pop artist/producer. How does a career so heavily linked with alcohol and substance misuse sit with his own lifestyle choice?

"I think I could just enjoy the music whether I'm in the crowd or behind the decks. Under peer pressure I'd never accept anything, I'd say no thanks all night if that's what it took," he explains.

He says: "I'm happy being the only sober person by the end of the night if I go out somewhere where there's drinking.

"If I don't have to personally deal with someone who's had too much to drink by myself, then I'm not bothered usually."

For others, the decision not to drink was simply a case of disliking the taste of alcohol and seeing friends drink to excess has further embedded their lifestyle.

'Seeing people drunk put me off alcohol'

Image copyright Cathy Louise
Image caption Cathy Louise, 20, does not like the taste of alcohol

Cathy Louise is a 20-year-old vlogger who has never been interested in drink.

She says the health issues were never a part of her decision: "I just hate the taste and the fact that you lose control."

"I have never been drunk but have experienced other people drinking to excess which is never fun so that has also put me off ever drinking."

Dealing with and looking after drunk people has become a feature of her social life, however.

"I am usually expected to look after people who get drunk. I feel that's not my job, although I try to make sure people are safe.

"I have been at parties where people who drank to excess kept turning on the gas without igniting the flame on a hob and I had to constantly turn it off. I felt really scared because I didn't know what else they might try.

"Some people know their limits and stop drinking and look after themselves, but some people just can't seem to stop.

"I don't mind being around people who are having a drink but dealing with people who have collapsed or have made themselves incredibly ill because of alcohol is a lot to handle when it's late and you're tired and you're young."

'I worried I'd let slip I was gay if I got drunk'

Image copyright Allan Faulds
Image caption Allan Faulds with his drink of choice, a milkshake

Allan Faulds grew up in West Dunbartonshire, one of the areas most affected by alcohol abuse in Scotland. The 27-year-old says he made the decision not to drink when he was in his mid-teens, reaffirming that commitment in his twenties.

He admits his first decision was borne out of a fear of outing himself when inebriated: "I wasn't comfortable with my sexuality and was really worried if I did drink I'd somehow let slip that I was gay.

"Since then I'm more than happy in who I am, and I've chosen to continue not drinking because I simply don't see the point in starting - it's expensive, it's often unhealthy, and I don't need alcohol to enjoy myself."

Back in 2005, 19% of people aged between 16 and 24 in the UK reported not drinking at all. In 2017, this had increased to 22.8% according to official statistics.

How many people?

UK-wide figures on non-drinkers


People were teetotal in 2017

  • 22.6% of women do not drink

  • 18.1% of men avoid booze

  • 22.8% of 16-24s are teetotal

Despite the increase in teetotal young people, drinkers in this age group are still more likely to binge more heavily than older people.

There are more than 10,000 deaths per year in the UK linked to drink, while 1.4 million hospital admissions annually are related to the consumption of alcohol.

So what do our teetotallers think of Briton's booze culture?

Derryn believes it is an issue of moderation rather than encouraging more people to be alcohol-free: "I think people just need to be conscious about the impact their decisions have if they go overboard or develop bad habits."

Allan says it is "a pretty serious problem" based on the idea that "it's not possible to have a good night out without alcohol".

He says: "In my earlier 20s, a lot of people seemed to gauge how good a night out was by how little they remembered about it afterwards because they got so blazingly drunk. That's really unhealthy."

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