Nine types of 'problem drinkers' - which one are you?

Researchers in Britain have they say identified nine types of "problem drinkers".

The researchers from the Department of Health say these people are costing the National Health Service (NHS) billions.

According to the NHS research those drinkers most at risk of liver damage and other alcohol-related illnesses, range from introverted types at home alone to macho exhibitionists at the pub.

The NHS hopes its research into the social and psychological characteristics of alcohol consumption will improve campaigns to reduce current drinking levels, which cost the NHS in England about £2.7 billion a year.

As part of the research a trial information campaign was launched in north west England but researchers say the problem is a tough one as there are many positive associations with alcohol among the general public particularly amongst those drinking at higher-risk levels.

Researchers say for these people, alcohol is embedded in their identity and lifestyle, so much so that challenging this behaviour results in high levels of defensiveness, rejection or even outright denial.

According to the research, people who regularly drink at least twice the daily guidelines - 35 units a week for women and 50 for men (twice the recommended limit) are heavy drinkers who fit into one of nine groups.

Characteristics of the nine types of drinkers include:-

Depressed drinker - someone in a state of crisis (recently bereaved, divorced or in financial crisis) where alcohol is a comfort and a form of self-medication, used to help them cope.

De-stress drinker - someone pressurised at work or at home leading to feelings of being out of control and burdened with responsibility, where alcohol is used to relax, unwind and calm down and to gain a sense of control when switching between work and personal life. (Partners often support or reinforce this behaviour by preparing drinks for them).

Re-bonding drinker - someone with a very busy social calendar where alcohol is the ‘shared connector' that unifies and gets them on the same level.

Conformist drinker - usually men who traditionally believe that going to the pub every night is ‘what men do' and justify it as ‘me time' where the pub is their second home and they feel a strong sense of belonging and acceptance within this environment.

Community drinker - someone who drinks in fairly large social friendship groups where the sense of community forged through the pub-group provides a sense of safety and security and gives their lives meaning and also acts a social network.

Boredom drinker - often a single mother or recent divorcee with restricted social life where drinking makes up for an absence of people, marks the end of the day - perhaps following the completion of chores.

Macho drinker - someone who often feels under-valued, disempowered and frustrated in important areas of their life but have actively cultivated a strong ‘alpha male' that revolves around their drinking ‘prowess' which is driven by a constant need to assert their masculinity and status to themselves and others.

Hedonistic drinker - usually single, divorced and/or with grown up children where drinking excessively is a way of visibly expressing their independence, freedom and ‘youthfulness' to themselves and is used to release inhibitions.

Border dependents - are those (usually men) who effectively live in the pub which, for them, is very much a home from home - resulting from a combination of motives, including boredom, the need to conform, and a general sense of malaise in their lives.

New campaigns will include self-help packs telling drinkers how to calculate the medical risks associated with different levels of alcohol intake.

People have different motivations for heavy drinking and experts say helping people to understand the reasons for their drinking habits was "very useful".

The campaign is focusing on adults aged over 35 and over 900,000 households will receive leaflets through the post highlighting the link between drinking and conditions such as cancer and liver disease, along with information about about where they can go to get help.

This will include a website where they can calculate their own individual risk from drinking and get access to a self-help manual and a telephone help line.

The government hopes this tailored approach will help 4,000 people in the region to reduce their drinking within a year and if successful, the campaign will be extended to other parts of England.

Official figures revealed 50,000 young men and women drink their way into hospital each year in England.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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