Author(s): Kuntsche E, Rehm J, Gmel G
Binge drinking has been shown to be associated with considerable social harm and disease burden. This review aims to give an overview from a European perspective of the socio-demographical, individual, and social factors that affect binge drinking and to identify effective interventions to reduce binge drinking. To this end, a computer-assisted search of relevant articles was conducted. Results showed that males tended to binge drinking more frequently than females. Binge drinking was most prevalent among adolescents and young adults, and prevalence levelled off later in life. Socio-economic conditions seemed to have an effect on binge drinking, independent of their effects on the volume of alcohol consumed. The early onset of binge drinking was associated with a history of drinking in the family, but pathways into adulthood are less clear. Binge drinking often co-occurred with other substance use. Motives for binge drinking included both social camaraderie and tension reduction. Which aspect prevails may vary according to the type of binge drinker, but to date has not been satisfactorily explained. Binge drinkers were not likely to know enough about or be aware of the potential risks of bingeing. Pressure from peers was one of the strongest influencing factors for binge drinking and seemed to outweigh parental influences, especially from late adolescence onwards. Binge drinking also varied according to both the predominant adult and adolescent drinking culture with more binge drinking in the northern and middle parts of Europe compared to the southern parts. Thus, a variety of socio-demographical, individual, and social characteristics associated with binge drinking have been identified. However, knowledge in this area is limited, as most research has been conducted among particular groups in specific situations, in particular North American college students. More research in Europe is urgently needed, as results from other cultural backgrounds are difficult to generalize.