Developing a social practice-based typology of British drinking culture in 2009–2011: implications for alcohol policy analysis

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Background and aims

The concept of national drinking culture is well established in research and policy debate, but rarely features in contemporary alcohol policy analysis. We aim to demonstrate the value of the alternative concept of social practices for quantitatively operationalizing drinking culture. We discuss how a practice perspective addresses limitations in existing analytical approaches to health-related behaviour before demonstrating its empirical application by constructing a statistical typology of British drinking occasions.


Cross-sectional latent class analysis of drinking occasions derived from retrospective 1-week drinking diaries obtained from quota samples of a market research panel. Occasions are periods of drinking with no more than 2 hours between drinks.


Great Britain, 2009–11.


A total of 187 878 occasions nested within 60 215 nationally representative adults (aged 18 + years).


Beverage type and quantity per occasion; location, company and gender composition of company; motivation and reason for occasion; day, start-time and duration of occasion; and age, sex and social grade.


Eight occasion types are derived based primarily on parsimony considerations rather than model fit statistics. These are mixed location heavy drinking (10.4% of occasions), heavy drinking at home with a partner (9.4%), going out with friends (11.1%), get-together at someone's house (14.4%), going out for a meal (8.6%), drinking at home alone (13.6%), light drinking at home with family (12.8%) and light drinking at home with a partner (19.6%).


An empirical model of drinking culture, comprising a typology of drinking practices, reveals the dominance of moderate drinking practices in Great Britain. The model demonstrates the potential for a practice perspective to be used in evaluation of how and why drinking cultures change in response to public health interventions.

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