Studies Reveal Age Gap in America’s Substance Use

Published 11 September 2023

2 min read

Two recent studies reveal significant generational shifts in...

Key Stats

Key Stats

2x

Cannabis use among 35- to 50-year-old Americans more than doubled over the decade to 2022, reaching 28%

29%

More Americans aged 35-50 are binge-drinking now than at any time since the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future study launched in 1976: in 2022, 29% reported doing so over the past fortnight, up from 23% in 2012

39%

Americans aged 35-54 have grown more likely to believe moderate drinking is detrimental to their health – 39% agree in 2023 – compared with 26% in 2018

52%

Among 18- to 34-year-old Americans, 52% regard moderate drinking as unhealthy, with Gallup logging an 18-point rise in this belief over the past five years to 2023

30.5%

Binge-drinking among Americans aged 18-34 is declining: 30.5% reported doing so in 2022, down from 35.2% a decade before

44%

Boosted by the spread of legalised recreational cannabis in the US, cannabis use among 18- to 34-year-old Americans is increasing: nearly 44% reported using it in 2022, versus 28% in 2012

8%

Hallucinogen use is also up among Americans aged 18-34: 8% reported using hallucinogens in 2022, compared with 3% a decade earlier

24%

Nicotine vaping is increasingly commonplace among 18- to 34-year-old Americans: in 2022, 24% said they had vaped in the past year, up from 14% in 2017

1/3

A third of 21- to 24-year-old Americans participating in Dry January 2023 said they were replacing alcohol with cannabis/CBD

  • Midlifers Are Self-Medicating: More Americans aged 35-50 are using cannabis and binge-drinking, according to the University of Michigan’s latest Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey of substance use. Their cannabis use more than doubled over the past decade, reaching 28% in 2022. And while relatively low, hallucinogen use doubled year-over-year, to 4%.

    More of these consumers are also binge-drinking now than at any time since the study’s 1976 launch: in 2022, 29% reported doing so over the past fortnight. Still, according to new Gallup data, 35- to 54-year-old Americans have grown more likely to believe moderate drinking (defined as one to two drinks daily) is detrimental to their health – 39% agree, compared with 26% in 2018.

    For insights into the pressures millennials and Gen Xers are currently confronting, see Future Consumer Life Cycle 24/25.

 

  • Young Adults Swap Alcohol for Alternative Substances: The majority (52%) of Americans aged 18-34 now regard moderate drinking as unhealthy, with Gallup logging a dramatic 18-point rise in this belief over the past five years. Aligned with this, the MTF study shows a decline in binge-drinking among 19- to 30-year-olds: 30.5% in 2022 versus 35.2% a decade before. For related insights, see Future Alcohol Consumers and Gen Z Leisure Trends: 2023.

    Meanwhile, boosted by the spread of legalised recreational cannabis, MTF found a significant uptick in marijuana use: in 2022, nearly 44% of those aged 19-30 reported using it, versus 28% in 2012. Hallucinogen use was also up, reaching 8% – from 3% a decade earlier – as was nicotine vaping (24%, from 14% in 2017). As we’ve reported, a third of 21- to 24-year-old Americans participating in Dry January this year said they replaced alcohol with cannabis/CBD (CivicScience, 2023).
  • Midlifers Are Self-Medicating: More Americans aged 35-50 are using cannabis and binge-drinking, according to the University of Michigan’s latest Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey of substance use. Their cannabis use more than doubled over the past decade, reaching 28% in 2022. And while relatively low, hallucinogen use doubled year-over-year, to 4%.

    More of these consumers are also binge-drinking now than at any time since the study’s 1976 launch: in 2022, 29% reported doing so over the past fortnight. Still, according to new Gallup data, 35- to 54-year-old Americans have grown more likely to believe moderate drinking (defined as one to two drinks daily) is detrimental to their health – 39% agree, compared with 26% in 2018.

    For insights into the pressures millennials and Gen Xers are currently confronting, see Future Consumer Life Cycle 24/25.

 

  • Young Adults Swap Alcohol for Alternative Substances: The majority (52%) of Americans aged 18-34 now regard moderate drinking as unhealthy, with Gallup logging a dramatic 18-point rise in this belief over the past five years. Aligned with this, the MTF study shows a decline in binge-drinking among 19- to 30-year-olds: 30.5% in 2022 versus 35.2% a decade before. For related insights, see Future Alcohol Consumers and Gen Z Leisure Trends: 2023.

    Meanwhile, boosted by the spread of legalised recreational cannabis, MTF found a significant uptick in marijuana use: in 2022, nearly 44% of those aged 19-30 reported using it, versus 28% in 2012. Hallucinogen use was also up, reaching 8% – from 3% a decade earlier – as was nicotine vaping (24%, from 14% in 2017). As we’ve reported, a third of 21- to 24-year-old Americans participating in Dry January this year said they replaced alcohol with cannabis/CBD (CivicScience, 2023).