IAS FACT SHEET – Binge Drinking PAGE 1 OF 14
Binge Drinking –
Produced by the Institute of Alcohol Studies,
1 The Quay,
IAS FACT SHEET – Binge Drinking PAGE 2 OF 14
Historical and cultural context
Regional variations in the UK
Prevalence of binge drinking
Social class and education
Causes of binge drinking
Licensing law and binge drinking
Legal drinking age and age of onset of drinking
IAS FACT SHEET – Binge Drinking PAGE 3 OF 14
Originally, the term `binge’ was used in its clinical sense to refer to a periodic bout of
continual drinking, perhaps over a period of days, by someone who was alcohol dependent,
and ending only when the drinker was unable to continue.
In recent years, however, the term has gained currency as referring to a high intake of alcohol
in a single drinking occasion. For research purposes, binge drinking is often defined as the
consumption of more than a certain number of drinks over a short period of time, - a single
drinking session, or at least during a single day.
There is no internationally agreed definition of binge drinking, but in the UK, drinking surveys
normally define binge drinkers as men consuming at least eight, and women at least six
standard units of alcohol in a single day, that is, double the maximum recommended ‘safe
limit’ for men and women respectively.
On the basis of this definition, as can be seen from the graph below, the prevalence of binge
drinking, having reached a peak around 2002, began to decline from 2003.
Average weekly alcohol units by gender1
Source: GHS 2005; ONS 2006
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