More research needed about home drinking

March 16, 2012

glass of alcohol More research needed about home drinking

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A leading expert on alcohol abuse has expressed concern about the lack of research about home drinking. Dr John Fosterfrom the University of Greenwich is the first UK researcher to review all the research available about the drinking of alcohol by adults at home.

The article titled Home Drinking in the UK: Trends and Causes by Dr John Foster at the University of Greenwich had been published in Alcohol and Alcoholism.

Dr Foster from the university’s School of Health & Social Care says: “An increasing amount of alcohol is now consumed in our homes especially among the over-30s. Home drinking is invisible and individuals have to set their own boundaries about acceptable levels of consumption and behaviour. Yet shockingly little research has been carried out on this important problem in our society.”

What research there is indicates that home drinking is often linked to increasing income, high income and higher social class. Those drinking at home do not tend to ‘binge drink’, though ‘pre-loading’, or drinking before going out for the evening, is related to heavy drinking and increasing risk-taking, especially in young people.

“It takes many years for the health consequences of change in behaviour to appear and the increase in drinking at home is likely to be associated with higher cancer rates and cardiac-related problems in the future. Increased research is essential so that policy makers have more information about why adults drink at home and in particular their awareness of the associated risks.”

His research shows that there have only been six articles published about home drinking by adults in the last 10 years. These show that there has been a steady increase in the consumption of beer away from pubs and bars since at least 1970. However, since 2000, this has accelerated: 83 per cent of all wine drunk is consumed at home, according to figures from the British Beer & Pub Association (2006). Most of this alcohol is bought from large supermarkets. A recent internet survey found that only 11 per cent agreed that higher prices in supermarkets would make them use pubs and bars more.

In addition to this review Dr Foster has published work in the Journal of Public Health that indicates the reasons people drink revolve around cost, convenience and relaxation, and that the long term health risks are at best underplayed and at worst ignored.

John H. Foster and Colin S. Ferguson, Home Drinking in the UK: Trends and Causes, Alcohol and Alcoholism (2012), February 27, doi: 10.1093/alcalc/ags020, http://alcalc.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2012/02/27/alcalc.ags020.abstract?sid=0bb819f6-f4b0-48fa-a5bd-99e4388a1045

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