There are four types of drinker – which one are you?

It’s easy to see alcohol consumption being a result of thousands of years of ritual and a lifetime of habit. But have you ever stopped to consider why it is you choose to drink? Knowing what motivates people to drink is important to better understanding their needs when it comes to encouraging them to drink less, or in a less harmful way.

The four types

Personally, everyone can come up with many reasons why he or she is drinking, which makes a scientific understanding of the reasons difficult. But there is something called the motivational model of alcohol use, that argues we drink because we expect a change in how we feel after we do. Originally developed to help treat alcohol dependence, the ideas described in the model led to a new understanding of what motivates people to drink.

More precisely, the model assumes people drink to increase positive feelings or decrease negative ones. They’re also motivated by internal rewards such as enhancement of a desired personal emotional state, or by external rewards such as social approval.

This results in all drinking motives falling into one of four categories: enhancement (because it’s exciting), coping (to forget about my worries), social (to celebrate), and conformity (to fit in). Drinkers can be high or low in any number of drinking motives – people are not necessarily one type of drinker or the other.

All other factors – such as genetics, personality or environment – are just shaping our drinking motives, according to this model. So drinking motives are a final pathway to alcohol use. That is, they’re the gateway through which all these other influences are channelled.

1. Social drinking

2. Drinking to conform

3. Drinking for enhancement

4. Drinking to cope

Some will sip champagne or hold a glass of wine on social occasions to avoid pressure to drink. Photo by Nik MacMillan on Unsplash

Why it matters

There is promising research that suggests knowing the motives of heavy drinkers can lead to interventions to reduce harmful drinking. For instance, one study found that tailoring counselling sessions to drinking motives decreased consumption in young women, although there was no significant decrease in men.

This research stream is limited by the fact we really only know about the drinking motives of those in their teens and early 20s. Our understanding of why adults are drinking is limited, something our research group is hoping to study in the future.

Next time you have a drink, have a think about why you are choosing to do so. There are many people out there having a drink at night to relax. But if you’re aiming to get drunk, you have a higher chance than most of experiencing harm.

Alternatively, if you are trying to drink your problems away, it’s worth remembering those problems will still be there in the morning.

Originally Published by The Conversation, view the full article here.

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