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Establishing rates of binge drinking in the UK: anomalies in the data

By John McAlaney and J. McMahon


YesAims: Several studies funded by the UK government have been influential in understanding `binge drinking┬┐ rates in the UK. This analysis aims to establish consistency between results and clarify UK rates of binge drinking. \ud Method: The relevant sections of these surveys were compared: the Scottish Health Survey (SHS) 1998, the General Household Survey (GHS) 2002 and the Health Survey for England (HSE) 2003. In addition the methodology used by the Health Protection Agency in the Adult Drinking Patterns in Northern Ireland (2003) was compared to the approach used by the SHS, GHS and HSE.\ud Results: Marked differences were observed between the results of the GHS 2002 and both the SHS 1998 and the HSE 2002 despite each using a similar methodology, with the HSE 2003 reporting a rate of binge drinking in young males of 57%, and the GHS a rate of 35%. These difference may be largely attributed to variations in the criteria in binge drinking in each study. These differences in interpretation do not appear to have been acknowledged. Indeed several key alcohol harm reduction documents made inaccurate citations of previous surveys. \ud Conclusion: The media rhetoric on escalating rates of binge drinking in the UK should be regarded with caution until trends are based on standardized recording and reporting .This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Alcohol and Alcoholism following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version; McAlaney, J. and McMahon, J. (2006). Establishing rates of binge drinking in the UK: anomalies in the data. Alcohol and Alcoholism, Vol. 41, No. 4, pp. 355-357, is available online at:

Topics: Binge drinking, Alcohol consumption, Reporting rates, Study methodology
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Year: 2006
OAI identifier:
Provided by: Bradford Scholars

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