Under the influence

Worries about binge-drinking in the UK are nothing new: they predate the Norman Conquest. Yet in the last ten years there has been a growth in media, government and public concern about the issue. This pamphlet investigates the causes of, and possible responses to, binge-drinking among young adults aged 18-25 in the UK. This is an interim paper, prepared as part of a wider project analysing the underlying causes of binge-drinking, which will report later in 2011.

Under the Influence draws upon the evidence from 36 binge-drinking interventions undertaken in the last decade, which include quantitative and qualitative studies and meta-reviews. The authors conclude that any response to binge-drinking should be realistic, targeted, and have three aims: to reduce the frequency and intensity of binge-drinking episodes and associated behaviours; to reduce costs that stem from binge-drinking; and to encourage a more responsible attitude toward alcohol consumption over the long-term.

To achieve this, government should develop policy tools that target the social norms that underpin binge-drinking and associated behaviour. A renewed focus on the individual is suggested, including consistent enforcement of public order laws. The authors also propose that environmental changes, such as better trained bar staff and fewer drinks promotions, could ‘nudge’ people into responsible drinking habits. Finally, they advocate the long-term development of capabilities, which are personal qualities like self-control, to encourage a generation of responsible drinkers.