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Binge Drinking: Are Young People Really The Worst Offenders?

Posted in General Health 11 Feb, 2015

If you've ever watched the news then you'd be forgiven for assuming that all binge drinking is done by young people. Teenagers and students, and early 20-somethings, all of them out getting drunk and falling into the gutters. You'd be forgiven for thinking that because that seems to have been the media trend in recent years – the demonization of the young generation tipping over into the world of alcohol. New studies though, have shown that alcohol abuse has become a common part of middle-aged people's lives and that the average number of units drunk in a week actually rises in parallel with age.

What is binge drinking?

Binge drinking is, according to the NHS and charities such as Drink Aware, defined as consuming more than double the lower risk guidelines in one session. This equates to three pints for men – about 8 units – or two large glasses of wine for women – about 6 units. Look at that definition and being a binge drinker suddenly becomes a much easier thing to do. Indeed, it would be fair to guess that a huge number of people who drink on nights out, even if they don't go out that often, are binge drinkers.

Contrary to popular belief, binge drinking does not just mean drinking huge amounts sporadically, but also applies to anyone who drinks the the above amount of alcohol in the evening at home. Therefore it's not just young people who are involved, instead the binge drinking culture is a result of a larger, national issue with alcohol. Just like smoking and drugs, alcohol is a huge contributor to illnesses that can be caused or exacerbated by people's own lifestyle choices. Of course, there is plenty of help out there for anyone who thinks they may be drinking too much, or have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. But actually, because excessive alcohol consumption has become such a normalised part of our culture, there are many people out there who are binge drinking without even knowing it, and who would never for one moment consider that they have a problem with alcohol.

Generational habits

The belief that young people are the worst offenders is false. Drinking, it seems, is a habit that varies between different generations, and it even appears that alcohol dependency is receding among the current under 25s. Shows like Mad Men illustrate that, at certain points during the last century, daytime drinking was considered normal. Of course, TV shows are not academic studies, but it also seems that excessive drinking was less taboo in the 50s and 60s, for example. Perhaps the constant headlines in recent years about the dangers of alcohol have been a factor in pushing young people away from drink, as today's young people are among the least likely age groups to habitually involved alcohol in their lives.

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