People now more likely to get drunk at home than at pub

People are more likely to get drunk together at home than at a pub or club, according to new research.

Half of all get-togethers with friends or family involve “increased” or “higher risk” boozing - with pre-drinking now a common feature of nights out on the town for both younger and older adults.

While almost half of all drinking occasions are classified as moderate, one in 11 (nine per cent) involves boozing “heavily” at home with a partner.

And one in seven drinking sessions involves people boozing home alone (14 per cent).

The new study by the University of Sheffield’s Alcohol Research Group reveals surprising insights into Britiain’s booze culture today.

Researchers found that while heavy drinking is still commonplace, much consumption is moderate and sociable.

Between 2009 and 2011, 46 per cent of drinking occasions in the UK involved moderate, relaxed drinking in the home. However, nine per cent involved drinking heavily at home with a partner.

The study, published online by the journal Addiction, also confirmed that ‘pre-drinking’ is a typical feature of nights out for both young adults and older drinkers - and often involves heavy consumption.

Ten per cent of all drinking occasions involved groups of friends moving between home and pub drinking and consuming on average 14 units of alcohol - the equivalent of seven pints of beer or one-and-a-half bottles of wine.

However, for many, going out with friends often involved drinking only low levels of alcohol.

In comparison, almost half of get-togethers with friends or family which take place exclusively at home, such as dinner parties, house parties and watching sport, involved increased or higher risk drinking.

The study defined low risk drinking as consuming less than six units for women or eight units for men during the occasion.

Increasing risk drinking was defined as consuming six to 12 units for women and eight to 16 units for men while high risk drinking involves drinking more than 12 units for women and more than 16 units for men.

Study leader Dr John Holmes, a Senior Research Fellow at Sheffield University, said: “Far from the stereotypes of binge Britain or a nation of pub-drinkers, we find that British drinking culture mixes relaxed routine home drinking with elements of excess.

“Young people do binge drink on big nights out but we also see heavy drinking among middle-aged couples relaxing at home and among all ages at domestic get-togethers.”

The findings come from detailed drinking diaries completed by 90,000 adults as part of Kantar Worldpanel’s Alcovision study.

As well as recording how much they drank, participants detailed where and when they consumed alcohol, who was there and why they were drinking.

The researchers used the diaries to identify eight main types of drinking occasion.

Most of these involved drinking at home including drinking at home alone (14 per cent of occasions), light drinking at home with family (13 per cent), light drinking at home with a partner (20 per cent) and heavy drinking at home with a partner (nine per cent).

Consuming alcohol away from home was less common and included going out for a few drinks with friends (11 per cent of occasions) and going out for a meal as a couple or with family (nine per cent).

The study found 10 per cent of occasions involved drinking heavily at both home and the pub - whether through pre- or post-drinking during a night out.

Dr James Nicholls, of Alcohol Research UK, said: “The idea that there is a single British drinking culture is wrong.

“Drinking behaviours have changed enormously over time, and there are wide variations within society.

“Rather than assuming society is neatly divided between ‘binge’, ‘heavy’ or ‘moderate’ drinkers we should think about the occasions on which people drink more or less heavily - and the fact we may be moderate in some contexts, and less so in others.

“If we want to address problems associated with drinking, we need to recognise the diversity of how we drink and understand the crucial role that cultures and contexts play in that.”