Drunk as the Company You Keep?

College Student Drinking
College Student Drinking

The study finds that perceptions of your intoxication are influenced by how much those around you are drinking; a new British study suggests that if you’re drinking, the people around you can influence how drunk you think you are.

Researchers assessed more than 1,800 drinkers, average age 27, in bars and other places that serve alcohol. They found that the drinkers’ perceptions of their level of drunkenness and the associated health risks were related to the intoxication of the people around them rather than the actual amount of alcohol they had consumed.

Specifically, the drinkers were more likely to underestimate these levels and risks when surrounded by others who were also drunk but felt more in danger when around those who were soberer.

The findings were published Sept. 12 in the journal BMC Public Health.

The findings have “critical implications for how we might work to reduce excessive alcohol consumption,” said study corresponding author Simon Moore, a professor of public health research at Cardiff University in Wales.

“We could either work to reduce the number of very drunk people in a drinking environment or increase the number of sober individuals. Our theory predicts the latter approach would have the greatest impact,” he explained in a journal news release.

According to Moore, the study is the first to examine how people judge their levels of drunkenness and the health risks while drunk in actual drinking situations.

“Researchers have historically worked under the assumption that those who drink most alcohol incorrectly ‘imagine’ everyone else also drinks to excess. It turns out that irrespective of how much someone has drunk, if they observe others who are drunker than they are, they feel less at risk from drinking more,” he said.

The study authors said that further research is needed to assess how friends influence that perception.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on alcohol.


This article originally appeared on HealthDay and was reproduced here with permission.