Global binge drinking in decline and Europe is leading the way

  • Binge drinking among Europeans aged between 20 and 24 years fell by almost a quarter (23%) between 2005 and 2016.
  • Binge drinking has declined by 18% or more in four out of six WHO regions between 2005 and 2016. Across Europe and Eastern Mediterranean regions, it has declined by more than 25%.
  • But new research reveals half (51%) of adults across nine countries think binge drinking is on the rise.
  • Although the available data from WHO indicates that binge drinking is declining in several regions, the private sector can – and should – do more to accelerate this.
  • The International Alliance for Responsible Drinking calls for more partnerships between the public and private sectors and communities to tackle binge drinking, and build on and reinforce the message that it is socially unacceptable. Binge drinking fell by more than 25% between 2005 and 2016 across Europe and Eastern Mediterranean regions, according to a new report by the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking (IARD).

Some of the largest falls have been seen among young people in Europe. In 2005, almost half (44%) of all 20- to 24-year-olds were binge drinkers, however this has now dropped to just over one-third (34%) in 2016.
The report also reveals that 18% fewer people across Canada, the USA, the Caribbean, and Central and South America were binge drinking in 2016, compared to 2005.

However, there is much more work to be done to build on this progress and reverse the trend where binge drinking is on the increase. Binge drinking across the Western Pacific region has increased by 14% among 20- to 24-year-olds since 2005 and by 6% in South-East Asia.

Despite declines in many areas, binge drinking remains a concern for many adults. New research conducted by YouGov for IARD revealed that half (51%) of 12,000 adults across nine countries believe that HED has increased in their country over the last decade.

58% of adults in Australia believe that binge drinking has increased over the past ten years, but data show it has dropped by 13% among those aged over 14 years between 2004 and 2016.

Working together to deliver change
IARD is calling for a collaborative approach across industry, government, communities, and civil society to further tackle binge drinking.

Henry Ashworth, CEO of the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking, said: “Binge drinking is harmful and, although it is positive to see downward trends in many WHO regions, there is still much work to be done. It is critical that, across the world, we continue to build on these positive, downward trends and reinforce the message that binge drinking hurts the health and wellbeing of consumers and communities.

“Successful strategies for preventing binge drinking maximise the unique contributions that different stakeholders can offer through a whole-of-society approach. It takes partners from public, private, and civil society sectors to work together to bring further positive change. Together, we can ensure that the positive decline in binge drinking seen in many areas continues to spread.”

IARD members have worked in innovative partnerships including:
  • Responsible Party is an ambassador and event programme across Europe that helps tackle social norms around binge drinking. Since 2010, nearly 600 Responsible Party events have been held in 32 countries across Europe. The program works directly with the Erasmus Students Network, whose volunteers act as role-models, organize activities, and share information about the risks of HED with their peers.
  • How To Drink Properly is a social marketing campaign that aims to make drinking to get drunk less socially acceptable, particularly among young Australian adults aged between 18 and 24 years. Running since 2014, it employs confronting but relatable messaging integrated through media partnerships, including Snapchat and Tinder.
  • Best Bar None is a voluntary annual accreditation program, supported by local law enforcement. It aims to improve standards of practice at licensed premises, and includes regular staff training about responsible alcohol sales practices, such as not selling to intoxicated consumers. It currently operates in over 75 U.K. towns and cities, and is spreading globally; local partners and government agencies are working together to implement adaptations in cities in Ontario and Alberta, Canada, and in Northern Virginia, USA.
Notes to editors
A link to the full report, Trends Report Heavy episodic drinking. Working together to deliver change: How a whole of society approach can combat heavy episodic drinking, and statistics can be found here:
Binge drinking is also referred to as heavy episodic drinking (HED).
The International Alliance for Responsible Drinking (IARD) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to addressing harmful drinking worldwide. IARD is supported by its member companies from all sectors of the regulated alcohol industry – beer, wine, and spirits – in their common purpose of being part of the solution to reducing the harmful use of alcohol. For more information on our membership and what we do, please visit
All figures related to polling, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 12,137 adults in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Australia, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, the United States, and South Africa. Fieldwork was undertaken between June 19 and July 4, 2019.  The surveys were conducted online. The figures have been given an even weighting for each country to produce a cross-country average.