News You Can Use: How does Service Use for Alcohol Problems Relate to your Generation?

A seated young man is in a session with a female therapist

What was studied and why?

  • Understanding the context around why people seek out help and treatment (aka services) for alcohol problems can help researchers and clinicians to better study and support those same individuals’ treatment and recovery.
  • Service use patterns for alcohol problems have changed over the years, whether it be due to policy (e.g., insurance) or social changes.
  • These changes may affect how individuals across different generations seek and obtain services for alcohol problems.
  • No study to date has examined differences in service use for alcohol problems across generations, so the current study did exactly that!

How was it studied?

  • First, “generation” was defined in the following way: silent generation (b. 1928-1945), baby boomers (b. 1946-1964), generation X (b. 1965-1980) and the millennial generation (b. 1981-1996).
  • Next, service use was defined as seeking help (e.g., psychiatrist, psychologist, other professional) or receiving treatment (e.g., AA, self-help, outpatient program, inpatient program).
  • Finally, two types of analyses were done. We looked at trends and differences in service use by generation. We then examined the likelihood of individuals with AUD seeking help across generations and other demographic variables such as sex.

What was found?

  • Many interesting patterns were found! 19-24% of millennials had ever engaged in service use for alcohol problems, followed by 29-25% of generation X, 37-39% of the silent generation, and 43% of boomers. Generation X and millennials used services younger than silent or boomer generations. These younger generations also used different types of services and were more likely than boomers to use services overall. Regardless of generation, younger females were less likely to use services than males.

What is the bottom line?

  • There are generational differences in service use for alcohol problems. Overall, patterns exist whereby younger generations (generation X, millennials) display different service use patterns than older generations (silent, boomer). While not clinically actionable, such findings can eventually lead to research and clinical insights into how to better create generation-specific prevention-, treatment-, and recovery-focused support for individuals who are seeking services for alcohol problems.


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