Social, regular or problematic? Binge Drinking Behaviour

Publish Date: 19/11/2012


Social, regular or problematic? Binge drinking behaviour amongst older lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

If the media are to be believed then ‘binge drinking’ is the preserve of the young. Images of student pub crawls, Club 18-30 holidays and drunken celebrities falling out of nightclubs all but perpetuate the youthful identity of binge drinking; normalising it as if a rite of passage or simply a ‘part of growing up’.

Consistent with this image, the national Part of the Picture 2009-11 Report into substance use amongst lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) people in England also observes a high level of binge drinking amongst 16-24 year olds. Within this survey of over 4,000 LGB people, this age group were one of the two most likely to binge drink at least once or twice a week with 35% reporting doing so.

Interesting in light of the widespread political and media attention directed towards young drinkers, the same percentage of 41-45 year old LGB people also reported binge drinking at least once or twice a week. In fact, even more worryingly, this group reported the most incidences of very problematic drinking with 14% of them binge drinking at least four or five times a week compared to 9% of 16-24 year olds.

The 41-45 LGB demographic is very much missing from the media imagery of binge drinking Britain, not least because there is very little research into drinking amongst older people but also because little research exists around the drinking patterns of LGB people specifically. Anecdotally the life course of LGB people doesn’t always follow that of their heterosexual counterparts whose drinking tends to decline with marriage and the birth of children. Comparatively, without these options open to them, LGB people often rely on social/support networks outside of their family and continue to inhabit social spaces such as bars and clubs well into their later years.

A 2008 study of older people’s drinking in Brighton found that amongst heavier drinkers, relationships with other drinkers offered sociability and a degree of support. In light of the myriad issues LGB people face around internalised and externalised homophobia, mental and sexual health, and hate crime, it is unsurprising that the combined sociability that alcohol and gay spaces offer keep LGB people drinking more regularly and unfortunately more problematically than their heterosexual peers.

For more information about alcohol usage amongst LGB people please see:

If you are LGB and living in England and you would like to help with research into substance use, please complete the Part of the Picture survey here: