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Drinking Habits Among 18-24-year-olds - UK - June 2010

  • Binge drinking (defined by the government/NHS as 6 units in one session for women and 8 for men) is rife among 18-24-year-olds, with four in five of this age group exceeding the recommended limit on a regular basis.
  • Although the drivers of binge drinking among the young is multi-faceted, lack of awareness about how easy it is to drink excessively is undoubtedly a major cause. For example, more than half of regular binge drinkers are unwittingly so, and many 18-24-year-olds believe binge drinking means losing control of one’s senses as opposed to having as little as two large glasses of wine (for a woman) or three pints of premium-strength lager (for a man).
  • Younger women are just as likely to binge drink as younger men. But men, particularly those aged 18-20, are much more likely to drink regularly to greater extremes, ie twice or three times over the binge drinking limit.
  • For younger men, drinking, and indeed getting drunk, is seen both as more fun and more of a crucial social crutch than is the case for women. In contrast, younger women have more internal conflict about excessive drinking, and are particularly concerned about its implications for their weight and general health.
  • The harsh economic climate of the past year has had a significant impact on the drinking habits of 18-24-year-olds. The recession has resulted in young people cutting back. But they are also opting for more affordable ways of drinking such as buying cheaper drinks, spending more time drinking in-home than out, and not drinking every single time they go out.
  • The majority of 18-24-year-olds drank on only one or two nights a week, at which point they would drink to excess. As a result, Friday and Saturday night drinking was most popular to allow for ‘recovery days’ when they did not have to work or study.

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Table of contents

  1. Using Mobile Technology to Capture 18-24s

      • Definition
        • Abbreviations
        • Future Opportunities

          • Encouraging a balance
            • There’s such a thing as balanced drinking
              • …and balanced drinks
                • Targeting the ego to reduce binging
                • Summarising the Drinking Habits of 18-24-year-olds

                  • Binge drinking is a major problem…
                    • …For multiple reasons
                      • The recession forces 18-24-year-olds to stay at home
                        • Following 18-24-year-old drinkers through the week
                        • 18-24s’ Drinking in Context

                          • Key points
                            • 18-24s are a small but vital segment
                              • Figure 1: Size and gender breakdown of 18-24-year-old population in UK, 2005-10
                            • Excessive drinking is a feature of all age groups, not just 18-24s...
                              • Figure 2: Drinking habits, by where they drink – over-18s and 18-24s, 2009
                            • ...however, drinking among 18-24s is more visible
                              • Figure 3: Visiting a pub/bar for a drink or a meal the past 12 months – over-18s and 18-24s, 2009
                            • They will take vodka and lager over wine
                              • Figure 4: Drinks usage – over-18s and 18-24s, 2009
                            • The sweeter the taste, the more effective the disguise
                            • Are Definitions of Over-Drinking a Help or Hindrance?

                              • Key points
                                • Few people understand how easy it is to binge drink…
                                  • …as a result 18-24s seriously underestimate how often they binge drink
                                    • Figure 5: Agreement with whether they are a binge drinker – all 18-24s compared to 18-24s who have binge drunk in the past month, March 2010
                                  • Such confusion leads to personal and idiosyncratic definitions
                                    • Drinking over the recommended weekly amount
                                      • Mixed messages about health do not help
                                      • 18-24s and Excessive Drinking: How Bad Is It?

                                        • Key points
                                          • Binge drinking is an endemic problem among 18-24s – both men and women
                                            • There is a gap between perception and reality…
                                              • …particularly for young men and 22-24s
                                                  • Figure 6: Perception of binge drinking compared to actual binge drinking, by gender and age, March 2010
                                                • Why do men and 22-24s underestimate their binge drinking so badly?
                                                  • Figure 7: Difference between perception of drinking as negative versus positive, by gender and age, March 2010
                                                • Extreme binge drinking among 18-24s is the major problem to be tackled…
                                                  • Figure 8: Number of alcoholic drinks on a typical night of drinking, March 2010
                                                • …with over half of 18-24s being ‘extreme’ binge drinkers
                                                    • Figure 9: Extreme binge drinkers†, by gender and age, March 2010
                                                  • Bingeing is a much larger issue than drinking over weekly allowance
                                                    • Figure 10: Binge drinkers compared to those who drink beyond their recommended weekly allowance, March 2010
                                                  • Number of 18-24s who drink beyond their weekly limit is relatively low
                                                    • Figure 11: Days of alcohol drinking in a typical week – all 18-24s compared to those 18-24s who drink above their recommended weekly allowance*, March 2010
                                                • What Causes Excessive Drinking Among 18-24s?

                                                  • Key points
                                                    • Young people have no idea how easy it is to binge drink
                                                      • Figure 12: Strongest attitudes towards alcohol drinking, March 2010
                                                    • Drinks have more units of alcohol than ever before
                                                      • Figure 13: Trends for alcohol consumption compared to strength of alcohol ABV, 1998-2008
                                                    • Lack of alcohol appreciation makes drinking a means to an end
                                                      • Binge drinking made worse by having too much time on their hands?
                                                        • Figure 14: Proportion of extreme binge drinkers who are students or full-time workers, March 2010
                                                      • Its after effects mean binge drinking has to be very calculated
                                                        • Figure 15: Proportion of 18-24s who cited it being a school/work night as a reason for not drinking, depending on which night of the week it was, March 2010
                                                      • The positives of drinking outweigh the negatives
                                                        • Figure 16: Reason for drinking or not drinking, March 2010
                                                      • Targeting health concerns and ways of resisting coercion
                                                        • Men aged 18-24 under slightly more social pressure to drink...
                                                          • Figure 17: Net difference between male and female agreement with statements about drinking, March 2010*
                                                        • Women aged 18-24 are more sensitive to the downsides of alcohol
                                                          • Figure 18: Net difference between women’s and men’s attitudes towards alcohol drinking, March 2010*
                                                        • Young women pressured to go against their better judgement
                                                          • For binge drinkers, the fun outweighs functionality
                                                            • Figure 19: Net difference between attitudes towards drinking – binge drinkers and extreme binge drinkers compared to the average*, March 2010
                                                          • Deconstructing the rose-tinted view that getting drunk is always fun…
                                                            • Lack of other compromise options for the group
                                                            • How Has The Recession Affected 18-24s’ Drinking Habits?

                                                              • Key points
                                                                • Drinking drops among 18-24s…
                                                                  • Figure 20: How drinking frequency has changed for 18-24s in the past year, March 2010
                                                                • …particularly for older and female 18-24s
                                                                  • Figure 21: Those who have drunk less alcohol in the past year, by gender and age, March 2010
                                                                • Health/dieting concerns combine with recession to dissuade drinkers
                                                                  • It’s hard to cut down on a necessity
                                                                    • Figure 22: Attitudes towards drinking – those who have drunk less alcohol over the past year, March 2010
                                                                  • Economic downturn forces many to change their drinking strategy
                                                                    • Figure 23: Net difference between agreement and disagreement with statements about how drinking behaviour has changed in the past year, March 2010*
                                                                  • Binge drinkers less likely to have changed their ways
                                                                      • Figure 24: How drinking behaviour has changed in the past year – binge drinkers compared to non-binge drinkers, March 2010
                                                                    • Not all 18-24s are price-savvy when it comes to in-home drinking
                                                                      • Figure 25: How 18-24s compare drinking at home to drinking out, March 2010
                                                                    • Out-of-home drinking still the preference…
                                                                      • …however, pubs are far from universally liked by 18-24s
                                                                        • Overall younger people are not likely to drink a greater volume at home…
                                                                          • …but cheap booze does encourage 18-20-year-olds to drink to excess
                                                                            • Figure 26: Agreement with the statement ‘I can drink more at home because it’s cheaper’, by age, March 2010
                                                                          • Men aged 18-24 more experimental when drinking in home
                                                                            • Figure 27: Net difference between men and women aged 18-24 in attitudes towards drinking at home instead of out of home, March 2010*
                                                                        • 18-24s and Their Attitudes Towards Getting Drunk

                                                                          • Key points
                                                                            • They are ambivalent about getting drunk...
                                                                              • Figure 28: Attitudes towards getting drunk, March 2010
                                                                            • ...or rather women tend to be negative and men positive
                                                                              • Figure 29: Net difference between men and women’s attitudes towards getting drunk, March 2010*
                                                                            • Men see getting drunk as an important social tool
                                                                              • Drinkers fall into four strong attitudinal groups
                                                                                • Figure 30: Size of the four drinking attitudinal groups, March 2010
                                                                              • Drinking Has Social Benefits (10%, 600,000 of UK 18-24 population)
                                                                                • Shaped by Booze Culture (12%, 720,000 of UK 18-24 population)
                                                                                  • Figure 31: Analysis of differing attitudes towards getting drunk between Shaped by Booze Culture and Drinking Has Social Benefits, March 2010
                                                                                • Wary About Drinking (16%, 960,000 of UK 18-24 population)
                                                                                  • Drinking Is Good For The Soul (9%, 540,000 of UK 18-24 population)
                                                                                      • Figure 32: Analysis of differing attitudes towards getting drunk between Drinking Is Good For The Soul and Wary About Drinking, March 2010
                                                                                  • Diary of a Week in the Life of 18-24-year-old Drinkers

                                                                                    • Key points
                                                                                      • A quick word on the methodology
                                                                                        • On which nights are they drinking?
                                                                                          • Figure 33: Proportion of respondents drinking alcohol, by day of the week, March 2010
                                                                                        • How late are they drinking?
                                                                                          • Figure 34: Proportion of respondents who were drinking at 10 p.m., and who were drinking earlier, by day of the week, March 2010
                                                                                        • When do they not feel like drinking?
                                                                                          • Figure 35: Proportion of respondents who did not drink because they did not feel like it, by days of the week, March 2010
                                                                                        • When do they not drink because it’s a work/school night?
                                                                                            • Figure 36: Proportion of respondents who do not drink because it’s a work/school night, by days of the week, March 2010
                                                                                          • When do they not drink because they are just hanging out at home?
                                                                                            • Figure 37: Proportion of respondents who do not drink because they are hanging out at home, by day of the week, March 2010
                                                                                          • Where do they drink?
                                                                                              • Figure 38: Venues at which respondents drank alcochol throughout the course of the week, March 2010
                                                                                            • Who do they drink with?
                                                                                                • Figure 39: Who respondents drank alcohol with throughout the course of the week, March 2010
                                                                                              • What do they drink?
                                                                                                • Figure 40: Which alcoholic drinks respondents drank throughout the week, March 2010
                                                                                              • Why were they drinking a particular type of alcoholic drink?
                                                                                                • Figure 41: Reasons why respondents were drinking a particular drink, March 2010
                                                                                              • How attitudes to being drunk differ depending on drinking or not drinking
                                                                                                • Figure 42: How attitudes to drinking differ depending on whether respondents are drinking or not, March 2010
                                                                                            • Following the Drinking Habits of 18-24-year-old Consumer Groups Through the Week

                                                                                              • Key points
                                                                                                • A word on methodology
                                                                                                  • Drinking Is Good for the Soul – who are they?
                                                                                                    • Drinking Is Good For The Soul – following their drinking habits through the week
                                                                                                        • Figure 43: Following the drinking habits of the Drinking Is Good For The Soul group throughout the week, March 2010
                                                                                                      • Drinking Has Social Benefits – who are they?
                                                                                                        • Drinking Has Social Benefits – following their drinking habits through the week
                                                                                                            • Figure 44: Following the drinking habits of the Drinking Has Social benefits group throughout the week, March 2010
                                                                                                          • Wary About Drinking – who are they?
                                                                                                            • Wary About Drinking – following their drinking habits through the week
                                                                                                                • Figure 45: Following the drinking habits of the Wary About Drinking group throughout the week, March 2010
                                                                                                              • Shaped By Booze Culture – who are they?
                                                                                                                • Shaped By Booze Culture – following their drinking habits through the week
                                                                                                                    • Figure 46: Following the drinking habits of the Shaped By Booze Culture group throughout the week, March 2010
                                                                                                                  • 18-24-year-old men – following their drinking habits through the week
                                                                                                                      • Figure 47: Following the drinking habits of 18-24-year-old men throughout the week, March 2010
                                                                                                                    • 18-24-year-old women – following their drinking habits through the week
                                                                                                                        • Figure 48: Following the drinking habits of 18-24-year-old women throughout the week, March 2010
                                                                                                                      • 18-20-year-olds – following their drinking habits through the week
                                                                                                                        • 21-24-year-olds – following their drinking habits through the week
                                                                                                                            • Figure 49: Following the drinking habits of 21-24-year-olds throughout the week, March 2010
                                                                                                                        • Appendix – 18-24s’ Drinking in Context

                                                                                                                            • Figure 50: Attitudes towards alcohol – over-18s and 18-24s, 2009
                                                                                                                            • Figure 51: Agreement with lifestyle statements on drinks, by demographics, 2009
                                                                                                                            • Figure 52: Agreement with lifestyle statements on drinks, by demographics, 2009 (continued)
                                                                                                                        • Appendix – 18-24s and Binge Drinking: How Bad Is It?

                                                                                                                            • Figure 53: Binge drinkers and non-binge drinkers, by demographics, March 2010
                                                                                                                            • Figure 54: Binge drinkers and non-binge drinkers in the past month, by demographics, March 2010
                                                                                                                            • Figure 55: Extreme binge drinkers and non-extreme binge drinkers in the past month, by demographics, March 2010
                                                                                                                            • Figure 56: Number of nights a week on which alcohol is consumed, by demographics, March 2010
                                                                                                                            • Figure 57: Number of nights a week on which alcohol is consumed, by demographics, March 2010 (continued)
                                                                                                                            • Figure 58: Number of alcoholic drinks on a typical night, by demographics, March 2010
                                                                                                                            • Figure 59: Number of alcoholic drinks on a typical night, by demographics, March 2010 (continued)
                                                                                                                            • Figure 60: Those who have drunk ten or more alcoholic drinks in the past month, by gender, age and working status, March 2010
                                                                                                                        • Appendix – What Causes Excessive Drinking Among 18-24s?

                                                                                                                            • Figure 61: Most popular attitudes towards alcohol drinking, by demographics, March 2010
                                                                                                                            • Figure 62: Next most popular attitudes towards alcohol drinking, by demographics, March 2010
                                                                                                                        • Appendix – How Has The Recession Affected 18-24s’ Drinking Habits?

                                                                                                                            • Figure 63: Changes in alcohol drinking behaviour in the past year, by demographics, March 2010
                                                                                                                            • Figure 64: Changes in alcohol drinking behaviour in the past year, by demographics, March 2010 (continued)
                                                                                                                            • Figure 65: Changes in alcohol drinking behaviour in the past year, by demographics, March 2010 (continued)
                                                                                                                            • Figure 66: Comparison between at-home drinking compared to out-of-home drinking, by demographics, March 2010
                                                                                                                            • Figure 67: Comparison between at-home drinking compared to out-of-home drinking, by demographics, March 2010 (continued)
                                                                                                                            • Figure 68: Body Mass Index for 18-24s, 2009
                                                                                                                        • Appendix – 18-24s and Their Attitudes Towards Getting Drunk

                                                                                                                            • Figure 69: Attitudes towards getting drunk, by demographics, March 2010
                                                                                                                            • Figure 70: Attitudes towards getting drunk, by demographics, March 2010 (continued)
                                                                                                                            • Figure 71: Attitudes towards getting drunk, by demographics, March 2010 (continued)
                                                                                                                            • Figure 72: Attitudinal groups, by demographics, March 2010
                                                                                                                            • Figure 73: Proportion of attitudinal groups who binge drink on a regular basis, March 2010
                                                                                                                            • Figure 74: Proportion of attitudinal groups who extreme binge† drink on a regular basis, March 2010
                                                                                                                            • Figure 75: Attitudinal groups and their agreement with general statements about drinking, March 2010
                                                                                                                            • Figure 76: Attitudinal groups and the proportion who drink on each day of the week, March 2010
                                                                                                                            • Figure 77: Attitudinal groups and the net difference between those whose drinking behaviour has increased and decreased over the past year, March 2010

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                                                                                                                        Drinking Habits Among 18-24-year-olds - UK - June 2010

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