Research reveals young people get drunk BEFORE they go out

Plymouth University study uncovers “pre-loading” craze

A new study on the drinking habits of 18-23 year olds has revealed that youngsters get drunk before they go to the pub.

A senior lecturer at Plymouth University has conducted a full scientific a study on getting pissed – and has concluded that young people drink before they go out into the public sphere.

According to the study, a phenomenon known as “pre-loading”, is taking over young people’s drinking rituals.

This pre-loading is bringing about a cultural shift in the “Night Time Economy” – and the “pub-club” drinking pattern has become the “home-pub-club” pattern.

Raucous students demonstrate a ritual of "preloading"

Raucous students demonstrate a ritual of “pre-loading”

To observe youngsters’ drinking habits researcher Adrian Barton followed twenty 18-23 year old pre-loaders around for three months.

Pre-loading,  known to the rest of us as “pre-drinking” or “pres”, is defined as the “purchase of alcohol for home consumption prior to an evening spent at on-trade premises.”

Dr Barton said: “In our minds, pre-loading is fast becoming a significant cultural shift in the consumption of alcohol in the UK.

“But policy makers’ understanding of the practice is limited, meaning that alcohol policies locally and nationally are failing to reflect its significance.”

“Recent research (Barton and Husk, 2012) suggested that in the UK we are seeing a shift from the traditional “pub-club” drinking pattern to a “home-pub-club” pattern.

“In the latter model often excessive early evening drinking is occurring in the private sphere in the absence of external control, leading to problems when the drinkers enter the public sphere.

“Pre-loading has become a key aspect in the drinking patterns of many of the Night Time Economy (NTE) population with around 60-70 per cent of people drinking some alcohol prior to going out. In the previous work (Barton and Husk, 2012) 50 per cent of people were drinking significant quantities of alcohol prior to entering the NTE.


Barton also pointed out “finally in terms of the venue it was clear that, for our sample at least, pre-loading can only take place in the absence of parents.”

“Therefore did not feel they had ownership of a suitable place in which to pre-load.”

But according to the study, saving money isn’t the reason these young people get wasted before they go out. Instead, the pre-loaders claimed it was because they were scared of pubs and nightclubs.

And the main finding of the study is that this “pre-loading” craze allows students to ease themselves into a pub or club environment.

Remains of a preloading session

Remains of a pre-loading session

Olivia Wassen from Edinburgh University defines this new ritual as something “so that you are drunk enough to handle the mess that is a night out at clubs with loud music and drunk people”.

Similarly Patsy McLoughlin from Liverpool takes advantage of the “pre-loading” opportunities to ease her into the “NTE”. She said: “You can also do some flirting groundwork at pres so when you go over to male in question and start club necking him it’s not a total surprise”.

But this isn’t the first time young people’s drinking rituals have been exposed. Earlier this year the BBC uncovered “prinking” – the new trend of  having a drink at your mate’s before heading out.