This research was published by Alcohol Research UK before the merger of Alcohol Concern and Alcohol Research UK. 

When governments propose changes to alcohol policies, the announcement is often followed by public debate on the potential for the policy to change the country’s drinking culture. The UK Government’s 2012 Alcohol Strategy made changing the drinking culture a strategic policy aim (HM Government, 2012). However, specifying what the drinking culture is, what is problematic about it, what it should be changed to, what interventions might trigger such a change and whether success has been achieved have all been problematic topics in alcohol policy discourse and the research literature.

This research focuses on one key manifestation of a nation’s drinking culture: drinking occasions. 

Key findings

A typology of British drinking occasions can be constructed which identifies eight distinct occasion types. This typology has face validity with focus groups of drinkers.

  • Drinking at increasing and high risk levels occurs in a diverse range of drinking occasions including drinking in the home and at other people’s houses, and extends well beyond caricatures of youth binge drinking in urban centres

  • Our study does not support a representation of the British drinking culture as one which is characterised by excessive consumption and drinking to intoxication, although this is one aspect of the culture

  • High risk occasions are found across all age, sex and socioeconomic groups but the majority occur within those aged over 35 and of high socioeconomic status

  • Drinkers of lower socioeconomic status have fewer occasions but consume more per occasion, which may partly account for the paradox that drinkers of lower socioeconomic status have higher alcohol-related mortality rates despite being less likely to drink and having lower average weekly consumption if they do so.

  • Policy-relevant factors such as price and health considerations influenced participants’ drinking occasions, but these intersected with and were filtered through drinkers’ own experiences and circumstances.

Read the full research on the Alcohol Research UK website.

Read about the Alcohol Concern / Alcohol Research UK merger.