More Than Half of Gen Z and Millennial Drinkers Are Interested in TikTok’s ‘Damp Drinking’ Trend

The latest iteration of drinking in moderation is resonating with an important demographic for adult beverage brands, writes food & beverage analyst Emily Moquin
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May 01, 2023 at 5:00 am UTC

Key Takeaways

  • Roughly 1 in 3 Gen Z and millennial drinkers have heard of “damp drinking” and, when prompted, over half are interested in trying it.

  • Overall wellness — and for younger generations, mental wellness in particular — is a major driver for most of those interested in participating in the viral TikTok trend.

  • This ongoing moderation mindset shift will shape drinking habits for years to come: Brands should prioritize growing low-alcohol and no-alcohol alternatives.

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There’s a TikTok trend that has been growing in popularity, and this one has health benefits: "damp drinking."

“Damp drinking” has been gaining attention over the last several months as the latest iteration of the moderation movement. TikToker Hana Elson is credited with coining the term “damp lifestyle,” which she says is about learning the specific practices behind moderation. Her content is largely dedicated to tips and advice about what has worked for her, with encouragement for followers to also explore what works for them personally. Now, #damplifestyle has more than 42 million views on TikTok.

Gen Z and millennial drinkers most likely to show interest in “damp drinking”

Younger drinkers were most likely to be aware of the idea, which is not surprising given its TikTok origins. Only 15% of all U.S. adults said they had heard at least something about the term “damp drinking” — i.e., making an effort to drink less and drink in moderation, but not give up alcohol entirely. That share rises to roughly 3 in 10 among TikTok users (27%), as well as among millennials (31%) and Gen Z adults (35%) who drink alcohol. 

The concept has broad appeal among those who are familiar with it: Over half (55%) of drinkers who said they’ve heard of damp drinking are “very interested” in trying it out.  But it’s not just Gen Z TikTokers who are looking to give this trend a shot: Across generations, when prompted with the concept, millennials were the most likely to say they were interested in trying it.

Shares of alcohol drinkers (ages 21 or older) who said they’re interested in trying damp drinking
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Survey conducted April 12-15, 2023, among 6,471 U.S. adults ages 21 or older who drink alcohol, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-1 percentage point.

There is also a gender divide. Despite the female-focused presence of TikTok creators in the movement, Gen Z and millennial men are most likely to want to try it out — 67% expressed interest, 15 percentage points more than the share of Gen Z and millennial women who said the same. Men generally drink more than women, so they have more opportunities to evaluate, and potentially pull back on, their consumption.

Improving health and wellness is a key motivator for participation in “damp drinking”

For most, improving physical health tops the list of reasons for pursuing a damp lifestyle. But mental health has even stronger importance for Gen Z specifically: 66% said their mental health was a major reason for their interest. Members of this generation are coming of age alongside, and in many ways are responsible for, the normalization of cultural conversation about mental well-being, so it makes sense that this aspect appeals to them. Gen Zers communicate openly online about the impact drinking can have on mental health, popularizing terms like “hangxiety” and even getting more scientific, noting the cyclical effect drinking can have on dopamine levels in their brains. 

Millennials, at 59%, are just slightly less likely than Gen Zers to cite mental health as a major reason for drinking in moderation. Improvements to physical and mental health are almost equally compelling reasons in their minds.

Shares who said each of the following is a “major” reason for their interest in damp drinking:
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Survey conducted April 12-15, 2023, among 2,022 U.S. adults ages 21 or older who drink alcohol and are interested in damp drinking, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points.

Behind health, saving money is also a key factor — roughly half of those interested in “damp drinking” cited spending less on alcohol as a major reason. According to Morning Consult Economic Intelligence, changes to spending in this inflationary period over the last two years were initially most pronounced among lower-income consumers, but in March the highest earners had the largest decline in spending month over month. Many adult beverage brands rely heavily on these high-income consumers for their customer base, so further pullback from this group will impact brands that have weathered the economic environment relatively well thus far. 

Many drinkers, especially Gen Z and millennials, are already moderating their alcohol intake

In January, when asked to think about the year ahead, roughly 3 in 10 drinkers (31%) said they expect to drink less in 2023 than they did in 2022. It appears that many have taken that plan to action. In the three-month average for Q1 2022, 61% of Gen Zers said they drink alcohol. That share declined to 54% in Q1 2023. Among millennials, the share dropped 4 points to 61% year over year.

When asked more recently about their moderation efforts, nearly half of drinkers said they made an effort to drink alcohol less often (49%) and consume less when they do drink (47%). Drinkers reported these behaviors before being introduced to the topic of “damp drinking,” so TikTok alone does not deserve credit for this trend. 

Shares who said they did each of the following in the past year:
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Survey conducted April 12-15, 2023, among 4,566 U.S. adults ages 21 or older who drink alcohol, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-1 percentage point.

The virality of “damp drinking” underscores the long lifespan of the moderation movement 

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.

Emily Moquin previously worked at Morning Consult as a lead food & beverage analyst.


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