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Characteristics of binge drinkers in Europe


  • Kuntsche, E.
  • Rehm, J.
  • Gmel, G.


Binge drinking has been shown to be associated with considerable social harm and disease burden. This review aims to give an overview from a European perspective of the socio-demographical, individual, and social factors that affect binge drinking and to identify effective interventions to reduce binge drinking. To this end, a computer-assisted search of relevant articles was conducted. Results showed that males tended to binge drinking more frequently than females. Binge drinking was most prevalent among adolescents and young adults, and prevalence levelled off later in life. Socio-economic conditions seemed to have an effect on binge drinking, independent of their effects on the volume of alcohol consumed. The early onset of binge drinking was associated with a history of drinking in the family, but pathways into adulthood are less clear. Binge drinking often co-occurred with other substance use. Motives for binge drinking included both social camaraderie and tension reduction. Which aspect prevails may vary according to the type of binge drinker, but to date has not been satisfactorily explained. Binge drinkers were not likely to know enough about or be aware of the potential risks of bingeing. Pressure from peers was one of the strongest influencing factors for binge drinking and seemed to outweigh parental influences, especially from late adolescence onwards. Binge drinking also varied according to both the predominant adult and adolescent drinking culture with more binge drinking in the northern and middle parts of Europe compared to the southern parts. Thus, a variety of socio-demographical, individual, and social characteristics associated with binge drinking have been identified. However, knowledge in this area is limited, as most research has been conducted among particular groups in specific situations, in particular North American college students. More research in Europe is urgently needed, as results from other cultural backgrounds are difficult to generalize.

Suggested Citation

  • Kuntsche, E. & Rehm, J. & Gmel, G., 2004. "Characteristics of binge drinkers in Europe," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 59(1), pages 113-127, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:59:y:2004:i:1:p:113-127

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    Cited by:

    1. Previte, Josephine & Fry, Marie-Louise & Drennan, Judy & Hasan, Syed Fazal E., 2015. "Friends or foes: Group influence effects on moderate drinking behaviors," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 68(10), pages 2146-2154.
    2. Huerta, Maria C. & Borgonovi, Francesca, 2010. "Education, alcohol use and abuse among young adults in Britain," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 71(1), pages 143-151, July.
    3. Mossakowski, Krysia N., 2008. "Is the duration of poverty and unemployment a risk factor for heavy drinking?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 67(6), pages 947-955, September.
    4. Agnoli, Lara & Boeri, Marco & Scarpa, Riccardo & Capitello, Roberta & Begalli, Diego, 2018. "Behavioural patterns in Mediterranean-style drinking: Generation Y preferences in alcoholic beverage consumption," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 75(C), pages 117-125.
    5. Maria Pavlova & Rainer Silbereisen & Kamil Sijko, 2014. "Social Participation in Poland: Links to Emotional Well-Being and Risky Alcohol Consumption," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 117(1), pages 29-44, May.
    6. Lucía Moure-Rodriguez & Carina Carbia & Eduardo Lopez-Caneda & Montserrat Corral Varela & Fernando Cadaveira & Francisco Caamaño-Isorna, 2018. "Trends in alcohol use among young people according to the pattern of consumption on starting university: A 9-year follow-up study," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 13(4), pages 1-16, April.
    7. Nelson, Jon P., 2014. "Binge Drinking, Alcohol Prices, And Alcohol Taxes," Working Papers 164652, American Association of Wine Economists.
    8. Goldberg-Looney, Lisa D. & Sánchez-SanSegundo, Miriam & Ferrer-Cascales, Rosario & Smith, Erin R. & Albaladejo-Blazquez, Natalia & Perrin, Paul B., 2015. "Adolescent drinking in Spain: Family relationship quality, rules, communication, and behaviors," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 236-243.
    9. John Garry & Maria Lohan, 2011. "Mispredicting Happiness Across the Adult Lifespan: Implications for the Risky Health Behaviour of Young People," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 12(1), pages 41-49, March.
    10. Hamelin, Christine & Salomon, Christine & Sitta, Rémi & Gueguen, Alice & Cyr, Diane & Lert, France, 2009. "Childhood sexual abuse and adult binge drinking among Kanak women in New Caledonia," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 68(7), pages 1247-1253, April.
    11. Yang Liu & Mei Wang & Jorma Tynjälä & Jari Villberg & Yan Lv & Lasse Kannas, 2013. "Socioeconomic inequalities in alcohol use of adolescents: the differences between China and Finland," International Journal of Public Health, Springer;Swiss School of Public Health (SSPH+), vol. 58(2), pages 177-185, April.
    12. de Visser, Richard O. & Smith, Jonathan A., 2007. "Young men's ambivalence toward alcohol," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 64(2), pages 350-362, January.
    13. Piacentini, Maria G. & Banister, Emma N., 2009. "Managing anti-consumption in an excessive drinking culture," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 62(2), pages 279-288, February.

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