Page last updated: June18, 2014

Young people “pre-drink” before a night out because they are fearful of bars and clubs, a study find

A study by Researchers at Plymouth found that 18- 23 year-olds drink significant quantities of alcohol at home before venturing out to venues in the evenings as they prefer the feeling of “control” when they drink in private with friends. The researchers say the findings run contrary to a popular understanding that young people “pre-drink” or “pre-load” in order to take advantage of cheaper alcohol at supermarkets and off licences, as opposed to buying drinks in bars and clubs.

Previous research by the authors (Barton and Husk, 2012) suggested that the UK is seeing a shift from the traditional “pub-club” drinking pattern to a “homepub- club” pattern. In this recent pattern, often excessive early evening drinking occurs in the private sphere - at home or at friends’ houses, in the absence of external control, leading to problems when the drinkers enter the public sphere.

Pre-loading has become a key aspect in the drinking patterns of many in the Night Time Economy (NTE) population with around 60-70% of people drinking some alcohol prior to going out and in 50% of those people, the alcohol consumed was significant. The authors state that whilst these statistics give a general overview of patterns of drinking, they fail to provide the depth required to uncover potential mechanisms. It is generally assumed that the driving force behind this cultural shift in alcohol use is price. However, the feeling is that this is too simplistic. To explore this, they conducted a set of in-depth qualitative interviews with young people to ascertain why pre-loading is such an entrenched aspect of their drinking culture (n=20).

The preliminary findings of that research showed that beyond the price factor, many young people seemingly need alcohol to cope with the NTE; they prefer the safety and control of the environment that drinking in the private sphere provides; and some of them (despite drinking alcohol) simply do not like pubs. The paper adds to the discourse on pre-loading by suggesting underlying mechanisms of action.

Source: Adrian Barton, Kerryn Husk, (2014) “I don’t really like the pub […]”: reflections on young people and preloading alcohol”, Drugs and Alcohol Today, Vol. 14 Iss: 2, pp.58 - 66.

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