The phenomenon of binge drinking in Britain

Photograph: Pexels
Photograph: Pexels

On Saturday evening I was sitting with a group of friends drinking a few alcoholic beverages and nibbling away at snacks which I had laid out on the table. We were of course ‘pre-drinking’ before we head out into the vibrant nightlife of Hamburg in Germany. Whilst sitting there, I began to notice the different behaviour that everyone seemed to have when drinking alcohol. The group of friends consisted of people from around the globe: Polish, Georgian, Mexican, South Korean, German, French and I, the Englishman. Throughout the evening I became aware that alcohol is a phenomenon that exists almost everywhere in the world, however each country seem to have their own attitude when it comes to drinking alcohol. Coming from England, I was brought up in a society where alcohol is used excessively, whether it was at a friend’s birthday party, or around the city centre on a weekend, binge drinking was everywhere and that appeared normal behaviour to me. This reflection ignites an interest into understanding what binge drinking is, and how it exists within Britain.

Although evident in the streets of Britain itself, Britain’s international reputation of being fans of binge drinking has grown tremendously from holiday destinations where other tourists have witnessed the chaos that can occur when the Brits decide to drink excessively at the various resorts which usually consist of the Spanish islands in southern Europe. The notoriety of locations such as Magaluf, Kos, and Ayia Napa is often published by tabloids, or even broadcasted by various television programmes such as ‘Sun, Sex, and Suspicious Parents’, who find that they can entertain millions of viewers with the embarrassing behaviour, whilst also making lots of money. When you think about it, is it really any wonder that our foreign counterparts regard us as bunch of trouble making binge drinkers?

According to the Office for National Statistics, the consumption of alcohol has decreased in the past few years. The question remains however, how is alcohol consumption decreasing among this new phenomenon of binge drinking which is spreading through society?

Photograph: Decreasing trend of alcohol consumption / CC
Photograph: Decreasing trend of alcohol consumption / CC

Information from the Office for National Statistics in 2013 seems to answer our questions. It shows the percentage of people from different age groups, who have drunk very heavily (equivalent to more than 6 pints of normal strength lager for men and 3 large glasses of wine for women) at least once in the last week. Seeing this image shows us that the younger people in our society are drinking the most, nine times more than people 65 and over, and about two and a half times more than people between 45 and 64 years old.

Photograph: Binge drinking by age / CC
Photograph: Binge drinking by age / CC

So how does Britain fair in comparison to our international counterparts when it comes to alcohol consumption among the young people of today? In an investigation by the Institute of Alcoholic Studies in 2004, they discovered that the amount binge drinking within the UK and Ireland was staggeringly higher than others within the European Union. In the following world map, which notes the alcohol consumption of each country, we see that Britain has one of the highest levels of alcohol consumption in the world.

Photograph: World Consumption of Alcohol / CC
Photograph: World Consumption of Alcohol / CC

After analysing some of the information available, it appears that alcohol is a huge problem within our society, particularly for young adults who will grow to become the backbone of our workforce and the parents of the future generation. Alcohol is a substance which can be used to relax when consumed in moderation, however it is evident that a lot of people go overboard and can’t stop themselves from drinking more than the recommended amount. It is now commonplace to read stories in the tabloids which tell of the dangerous activities undertaken by young binge drinkers, whether it is driving under the influence of alcohol, starting a fight outside a nightclub, or generally causing trouble both at home and in other countries. Not only is this a cause of many injuries and deaths, but also the ever-increasing danger of long-term illnesses which can be ignited as a result of drinking alcohol. Cancers, heart attacks, and liver disease are just some of the major life threatening illnesses which can be created due to excessive binge drinking.

Whilst this problem affects us individually, the impact upon our country is also devastating. The cost which is burdened on the National Health System (NHS) as a result of binge drinking is staggering. In England alone, The National Social Marketing Centre estimated that the in 2004, the annual cost of the healthcare service in relation to alcohol misuse, amounted to £2.8 billion. Needless to say, alcohol doesn’t just cause physical harm, it also detrimental in relation to social issues within families, crime and public disorder, and even productivity within the workplace as people call in to work sick due to alcohol misuse. With such devastating consequences, the government should be persistent in their attempt to reduce the level of binge drinking in our society.

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Alexander Soltanahmadi 2 Articles
Alexander studied History at the University of Hull and later moved to Germany where he work as an English Language Assistant for the British Council. His interests include different cultures, political news, and languages.

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