Beyond the Buzz

A social listening exploration of hangxiety, mocktails, and shifting generational drinking culture

Henry Chapman, Research and Insights Analyst

Drinking: an evolving American pastime

Drinking has been a part of American culture since the beginning. However, alcohol can cause people to feel unpleasant symptoms like nausea, headaches, and feeling tired the next day. There's another aspect of drinking that many people might not be familiar with, and it's called "hangxiety," a short term for "hangover anxiety." This feeling is the anxious and uneasy sensation that can appear in the morning after drinking. It's not just about feeling physically sick; it's also about feeling worried and stressed about what you might have said or done the night before.

For some people, hangxiety can be so strong that they think about quitting alcohol to avoid feeling this way. In this discussion, we'll explore how people talk about hangxiety and hangovers on the internet and also how they talk about their experiences with drinking in general. Finally, we'll look into how drinkers are curing their hangxiety with "mocktails," or fancy non-alcoholic cocktails that give people the fun of drinking without the added anxiety. Mocktails have exploded on social media over the last year, and we'll chart that explosion using social listening data provided by Infegy Atlas.

Understanding how your consumer's behavior changes could mean the difference between your business's growth or stagnation. Let's look at how consumer preferences are changing the adult beverage industry and how beverage companies can pivot to respond.

Hang-xiety and holidays

Posts about hangxiety have increased by 62% over the past three years. This rise has happened naturally, with three significant moments of online attention causing spikes. The biggest spike in mentions of hangxiety occurred on New Year's Day in 2023, with almost 3,000 mentions. Twitter user @sarahst022xx bemoaned her New Year's Day hangover and complained about the start of the year. This day being a big deal isn't accidental: New Year's Day happens after New Year's Eve, a traditional day of heavy drinking. Other heavy drinking days include the day after American Thanksgiving, the day after St. Patrick's Day, and the day after Christmas, usually when American adults feel the most hungover.

Figure 1: "Hangxiety" related post volume (August 2021 through August 2023); Infegy Atlas data.

This pattern becomes even more expected (and a bit funny) when we check out a bar graph that displays the days of the week when people discuss hangxiety. The leading day is Sunday. The number of posts on Sunday is 2 to 3 times greater than the average of the other six days of the week. This finding makes sense: most people drink over the weekend, so it's no surprise that their posts about regret and remorse come up on Sunday.

Bar graph showing days of the week
Figure 2: Bar graph showing days of the week in which "hangxiety" was most frequently discussed (August 2021 through August 2023); Infegy Atlas data.

Who's rejecting drinking - A demographic study

Now that we've looked at when people are posting about hangxiety let's take a closer look at who is posting about it. We'll analyze this demographic with clues from accounts' bios and feeds.

Hangxiety gender demographics

First, let's check out the breakdown by gender. It's pretty interesting: women were about 2.667 times more likely to talk about hangxiety than men. This discrepancy might seem like a big difference, but it makes sense when we consider medical information that indicates women are around 1.79 times more prone to experiencing anxiety than men.

Even more fascinating is research from San Diego Mesa College, which supports this connection between alcohol and women's anxiety. They used a statistical method called linear regression and found associated women with higher alcohol-related anxiety scores. This research helps provide more evidence for the relationship between alcohol and anxiety in women.

Image 3- Hangxiety Gender Demographics-1
Figure 3: Gender universe distribution associated with "hangxiety" (August 2021 through August 2023); Infegy Atlas data.

When we look at the source bios about the people discussing hangxiety, we notice a connection between women and mental health. Words like "girl," "mom," and "women" are linked to ideas like "support," "recovery," and "mental health." This juxtaposition shows how gender and the desire to improve oneself are linked.

Source bios associated with
Figure 4: Source bios associated with "hangxiety" (August 2021 through August 2023); Infegy Atlas data.

Hangxiety age demographics

Our data gets interesting when we look at age data. We see a massive tilt towards younger people (specifically Millennials and Gen Z). This finding matches up with sales data that shows these generations are less into heavy drinking than older ones like Gen X or Baby Boomers. This decrease in drinking among younger people, combined with their familiarity with mental health discussions, suggests that they are more likely to understand the risks associated with drinking.

Age demographics associated with
Figure 5: Age demographics associated with "hangxiety" (August 2021 through August 2023); Infegy Atlas data.

Mocktails: a hangxiety solution

Until now, we've been discussing those terrible hangovers and the anxiety they bring. Now, let's focus on the solution Millennials and Gen Z embraced: the mocktail. Mocktails have improved in recent years. Skilled drink makers can create drinks that taste remarkably close to the "actual" alcoholic versions but without unpleasant outcomes such as feeling sick, embarrassment, panic attacks, stomachaches, liver harm, or car accidents. These mocktails also let people join social events tied to drinking – they can still go out, have a great time, and not feel judged.

Mocktails Post Volume

The popularity of mocktails has shot up significantly in recent years. People are talking 70% more in 2023 compared to the previous year. This increase has been steady after a decrease around New Year's, and this trend is getting stronger.

Post volume associated with mocktails
Figure 6: Post volume associated with mocktails (August 2021 through August 2023); Infegy Atlas data.

Who's talking about it?

We'll wrap up with a brief discussion about the demographics of people to talk about mocktails. We discovered they're statistically identical to those discussing hangxiety - specifically Millennial and Gen Z women.

Mocktail gender demographics

We'll first take a look at gender demographics. Like the hangxiety-related discussion, women represent 76% of the conversation. Men are less likely to talk about mocktails online at only 23% of the conversation. This higher percentage could be due to women's recognition of the problems associated with alcohol.

Gender universe distribution associated with
Figure 7: Gender universe distribution associated with "mocktails" (August 2021 through August 2023); Infegy Atlas data.

Mocktail age demographics

Finally, we'll look at the age demographics associated with mocktails. We see a similar distribution that we saw with hangxiety. 25-34-year-olds were most likely to mention hangxiety and were also most likely to talk about mocktail interest. This interest could suggest that the age group has a heightened awareness of health and lifestyle choices. Additionally, women in their late twenties and early thirties are most likely to have children and avoid alcohol if they become pregnant.

Age distribution associated with
Figure 8: Age distribution associated with "mocktails" (August 2021 through August 2023); Infegy Atlas data.

Takeaways for your company

Our investigation into hangxiety and mocktails has shown that younger Americans are complaining more about the dangers of drinking. These findings suggest a dramatic shift in American social culture, which, up until this point, has been heavily influenced by alcohol-fueled social events. We used social listening data to quantify these trends and show how to identify audiences of people changing presumed behavior. These insights can give your company actionable strategies to cater to evolving consumer preferences.

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