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The turning tides of intoxication: young people's drinking in Britain in the 2000s

Fiona Measham (Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK)

Health Education

ISSN: 0965-4283

Article publication date: 18 April 2008




The purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of recent changes in young people's consumption of alcohol in Britain before then charting emerging academic perspectives and some of the recent regulatory and legislative changes.


The approach takes the form of a selective narrative review of young people's alcohol consumption in the last ten years through an analysis of key British and European secondary schools surveys, alongside select qualitative studies of relevance.


There has been increased heavy drinking per session by some young people in the UK from the early 1990s, with a perceived growing public tolerance of drunkenness by many more. In recent years there is evidence that this heavy sessional consumption by youth and young adults is starting to level off. However, there are also growing numbers of occasional drinkers and abstainers, suggesting a polarisation of drinking patterns amongst young people since 2000.


Early indications that alcohol consumption has levelled off by youth, as well as young adults, since the turn of the century suggests that some of the most highly publicised excesses of 1990s alcohol‐frenzied leisure may have run their course. Possible reasons for both the 1990s increase and the 2000s levelling‐off are explored, including shifts in reporting patterns and tastes, interventions to address underage drinking and binge drinking, alongside broader legislative, socio‐economic and cultural changes in the drinks industry, the night time economy and the regulation and policing of public space.



Measham, F. (2008), "The turning tides of intoxication: young people's drinking in Britain in the 2000s", Health Education, Vol. 108 No. 3, pp. 207-222.



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Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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