Is telling us we’re “binge drinkers” the best way to tackle damaging drinking?
According to research by University College London, published today in The European Journal of Public Health (and reported in The Independent), we’re “a nation of secret boozers” and we’re telling fibs when someone comes round with a clipboard to ask how much we’re putting away.
Apparently, self-reported alcohol consumption only accounts for between 40 per cent and 60 per cent of sales. When this under-reporting is factored in, the study suggests around half of all English men and women can be classified as “binge drinkers”.
Nobody denies that alcohol is a huge problem that can wreck lives. There’s a growing awareness that even what we consider moderate drinking may affect our health.
But the fact that people understate their drinking suggests we’re already feeling guilty about how much we drink. Does labelling someone a “binge drinker” who enjoys a glass of wine with dinner every night – and a few more at the weekend – really going to help them cut down ? Is shame a good tactic in (communicating) public health policy?