‘Binge’ drinking in the UK: a social network phenomenon
- 662 Downloads
In this paper, we analyse the recent rapid growth of ‘binge’ drinking in the UK. This means the rapid consumption of large amounts of alcohol, especially by young people, leading to serious anti-social and criminal behaviour in urban centres. British soccer fans have often exhibited this kind of behaviour abroad, but it has become widespread amongst young people within Britain itself. Vomiting, collapsing in the street, shouting and chanting loudly, intimidating passers-by and fighting are now regular night-time features of many British towns and cities. A particularly disturbing aspect is the huge rise in drunken and anti-social behaviour amongst young females. Increasingly, policy makers in the West are concerned about how not just to regulate but to alter social behaviour. Smoking and obesity are obvious examples, and in the UK ‘binge’ drinking has become a focus of acute policy concern. We show how a simple agent based model approach, combined with a limited amount of easily acquired information, can provide useful insights for policy makers in the context of behavioural regulation. We show that the hypothesis that the rise in binge drinking is a fashion-related phenomenon, with imitative behaviour spreading across social networks, is sufficient to account for the empirically observed patterns of binge drinking behaviour. The results show that a small world network, rather than a scale-free or random one, offers the best description of the data.
KeywordsAgent based model Social network effect Simulation methodology
We are grateful for comments from anonymous referees for the European Social Simulation Association conference, Brescia, Italy, September 2008 and to two anonymous referees from Mind and Society. We are grateful to the UK Advertising Association for sponsoring this research. The authors have full responsibility for the content.
- Gladwell M (2000) The tipping point: how little things can make a big difference. Little Brown, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- International Centre for Alcohol Policies (2005) Practical guides for alcohol policy and prevention approaches. International Centre for Alcohol Policies, onlineGoogle Scholar
- Knupfer G (2006) The risks of drunkenness (or, ebrietas eesurrecta): a comparison of frequent intoxication indices and of population sub-groups as to problem risks. Addiction 79:185–196Google Scholar
- Martinic M, Measham F (2008) Swimming with crocodiles: the culture of extreme drinking. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
- Melvin K (2008) Advertising and the misuse of alcohol. Advertising Association, LondonGoogle Scholar
- Office for National Statistics (2008) Drinking: adults’ behaviour and knowledge in 2007. Office for National Statistics, onlineGoogle Scholar
- Ormerod P, Colbaugh R (2006) Cascades of failure and extinction in evolving complex systems. J Artif Soc Social Simul 9(4):9Google Scholar
- Smith A, Foxcroft D (2007) The effect of alcohol advertising and marketing on drinking behaviour in young people: a systematic review. Alcohol and Education Research Council, onlineGoogle Scholar
- Watts DJ (2002) A simple model of global cascades on random networks. PNAS 99:5771–5776Google Scholar