Binge drinking: an exploration of a confused concept

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Abstract

Binge drinking is a matter of current social, media and political concern, and the focus of much policy activity in the UK. Binge drinking is associated with causing a wide range of harm to individuals (e.g. accidents), and the wider community (e.g. crime and disorder). Within the current discourse, binge drinking is seen primarily as a youth issue. Binge drinking is sometimes portrayed as a recent phenomenon, but we know from history that heavy drinking has been endemic in British society over many centuries. Using a contemporary history perspective, this paper explores the concept of binge drinking. It considers the definitions in use, recent shifts in meaning and also the way in which different definitions of binge drinking impact on perceptions of the extent and nature of binge drinking. The paper concludes with some thoughts and questions about the usefulness of the concept of binge drinking as it currently used, and areas for further research.

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