Are you as drunk as the company you keep?


If you're drinking, the people around you can influence how drunk you think you are, a new British study suggests.

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 drunkenness of the people around them, rather than the actual amount of alcohol they had consumed.

Read: The 6 stages of getting drunk

Specifically, the drinkers were more likely to underestimate the levels and risks when surrounded by others who were also drunk, but felt more at risk when around those who were more sober.

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

The findings have "very important 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 we could increase the number of people who are sober. Our theory predicts the latter approach would have greatest impact," he explained in a journal news release.

Read: Do you have a problem with alcohol?

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

"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 more drunk than they are, they feel less at risk from drinking more," he said.

Further research is needed to assess how friends influence that perception, the study authors said.

Read more:

Heavy drinkers influence friends

It's a fact: we get drunker when we drink with others

Alcohol hits women harder

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Have you entered our Health of the Nation survey?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
27% - 9956 votes
73% - 26323 votes