The Growing Trend of Young People Abstaining from Drinking Alcohol: A Literature Review

Subst Use Misuse. 2023;58(1):77-84. doi: 10.1080/10826084.2022.2148479. Epub 2022 Dec 13.


Background: Youth alcohol use and misuse lead to adverse outcomes. However, the literature has not always associated complete abstinence with better health. Since recent literature indicates an increased proportion of young abstainers, the aim of this paper is to review the studies investigating this upward trend and the factors associated with it, such as socio-demographics, school performance, social life, physical and mental health, and parental influence. Methods: Different databases were searched and appropriated terms were used. Given that the trend has only emerged in recent years, the review was limited to papers published since 2000. A total of 970 papers were returned and 10 were retained for the present review. Results: All papers covered by the review acknowledge the existence of a new significant trend resulting in more young people in developed countries who are choosing to abstain completely from drinking alcohol. They are in good physical and mental health and perform better at school than their drinking peers. The quality of their social life, albeit slightly more limited than that of their drinking peers, appeared to be good. Conclusion: Young alcohol abstainers represent a group situated at the beginning of a continuum of alcohol consumption, they do well and are not very different from light drinkers. Alcohol abstinence at young age does not seem to have any downsides and should therefore be generally advised. To further promote such behavior, measures to encourage parental monitoring and more generous public expenditure on health services and family benefits should be encouraged.

Keywords: Abstainer; Adolescents; Alcohol; Non-drinking; Young adults.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Alcohol Abstinence
  • Alcohol Drinking* / psychology
  • Ethanol*
  • Humans
  • Mental Health


  • Ethanol