Page last updated at 11:02 GMT, Thursday, 18 September 2008 12:02 UK

Drinkers fall into 'nine groups'

People have different motivations for heavy drinking

The government believes it has identified nine types of heavy drinker as it launches a new alcohol campaign.

Research by the Department of Health in England with focus groups found heavy drinkers often fell into one of a number of categories.

These ranged from de-stress and depressed drinkers to people who boozed because of boredom or to bond.

Experts said helping people to understand the reasons for their drinking habits was "very useful".

Depressed drinker
De-stress drinker
Re-bonding drinker
Conformist drinker
Community drinker
Boredom drinker
Macho drinker
Hedonistic drinker
Border dependents

The research showed that those drinking heavily - defined as consuming 35 units a week for women, 50 for men, which is twice the recommended limit - did so for a variety of reasons.

For example, de-stress drinkers were defined as people in pressured jobs who used alcohol to relax.

Whereas it said bonding drinkers could be anyone in society who had hectic social lives and lost track of their drinking.

The research was done to inform a new drive by ministers to crack down on heavy drinkers.

A pilot is being run in the north west of England over the coming months to specifically target heavy drinkers.

Over 900,000 households will receive leaflets through the post highlighting the link between drinking and conditions such as cancer and liver disease.

The campaign is focusing on adults aged over 35 who fall into the nine drinking categories.


Along with the information about disease risk, people will be given details 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. A telephone helpline will also be set up.

The government hopes the tailored approach will help 4,000 people in the region to reduce their drinking within a year.

If it is successful, officials hope to roll it out to other parts of England.

Public health minister Dawn Primarolo admitted these heavy drinkers were a "tough one to crack".

But she added: "This is a totally fresh approach to helping people understand the effects of their drinking habits and help them make changes for the better."

Alcohol Concern chief executive Don Shenker said: "This type of marketing is very useful.

"In order to get people to examine their drinking they need to become aware of why they are doing it and what motivates them."

The Nine Types of Drinker

Name Characteristics Key motivations
Depressed drinker Life in a state of crisis eg recently bereaved, divorced or in financial crisis Alcohol is a comforter and a form of self-medication used to help them cope
De-stress drinker Pressurised job or stressful home life leads to feelings of being out of control and burdened with responsibility 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 behaviour by preparing drinks for them
Re-bonding drinker Relevant to those with a very busy social calendar Alcohol is the ‘shared connector' that unifies and gets them on the same level. They often forget the time and the amount they are consuming
Conformist drinker Traditional guys who believe that going to the pub every night is ‘what men do' Justify it as ‘me time'. The pub is their second home and they feel a strong sense of belonging and acceptance within this environment
Community drinker Drink in fairly large social friendship groups The sense of community forged through the pub-group. Drinking provides a sense of safety and security and gives their lives meaning. It also acts a social network
Boredom drinker Typically single mums or recent divorcees with restricted social life Drinking is company, making up for an absence of people. Drinking marks the end of the day, perhaps following the completion of chores
Macho drinker Often feeling under-valued, disempowered and frustrated in important areas of their life Have actively cultivated a strong ‘alpha male' that revolves around their drinking ‘prowess'. Drinking is driven by a constant need to assert their masculinity and status to themselves and others
Hedonistic drinker Single, divorced and/or with grown up children Drinking excessively is a way of visibly expressing their independence, freedom and ‘youthfulness' to themselves. Alcohol used to release inhibitions
Border dependents Men who effectively live in the pub which, for them, is very much a home from home A combination of motives, including boredom, the need to conform, and a general sense of malaise in their lives

Your comments

Interesting article but it's not clear whether the research indicates that heavy drinkers fall into one category or can fall into a variety of categories. I, myself, am a heavy drinker and happen to be keeping a weekly drinking diary as part of an exercise. I have been drinking more than 100 units a week, and can say with certainty that I do not fall into just one category. Several of those apply.
Dan, London

I don't think I fit into any group, I drink because I enjoy a few pints now and then. It might be at the pub with friends and family, it might be at home with the wife, or it might just be a couple of pints of ale because I want to drink it because I like beer. Why do we always have to classify everything?
James Harding, Chippenham, England

Yet another article aimed at destroying the pub trade!!! Why don't they just ban alcohol all together and close down all the pubs in the country. A lot of pubs (especially village pubs) rely on their regulars (all be them heavy drinkers!) to support them, and this is just another way the government is going to get rid of even more pubs. Why can't these red tape producers just leave the hard working people alone and let them make their own choices??? If people want to drink heavily... just let them!
Andy, Kirby Hill, North Yorkshire

This type of stereotyping known as 'behavioural segmentation' is all the rage in government nowadays. They seem to have missed the 'I drink because I enjoy wine and being a bit drunk is enjoyable' segment - the starting point appears to be that all drinking is a problem. What a miserable, preachy, interfering bunch.
Mrs B, Bedfordshire

It seems to me that we move on from one type of drinker to the next. I can identify with at least four of them, ending up with moving from the de-stress to the depressed type. The move from one type to another comes without being aware of the change until you get to the depressed type and then we realise we need help.
Anne, Oxford, UK

I have a 70 year old mum, who has been drinking progressively heavier since being made redundant approx 20 years ago. She has been hospitalised several times as a result. She is receiving counselling which is not proving to be very effective. I would classify her the boredom drinker.

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