They say people are defined by who they surround themselves with. A new study from the United Kingdom agrees, stating that drunk individuals consider themselves drunker when with similarly intoxicated people. In the same way, they think they are soberer when around people who are not drunk.
Researchers from the Cardiff University in Wales determined that drinkers tended to overestimate or underestimate their level of drunkenness based on the people around them. Simon Moore, the lead author on the study, states,
Researchers have historically worked under the assumption that those who drink [the] most alcohol incorrectly ‘imagine’ everyone else also drinks to excess.
As it turns out, Moore says, no matter how much alcohol an individual has consumed, if they observe others being drunker than they are, they feel “less at risk.” Drinkers who are surrounded by drunk people are more accepting of their intoxicated condition, Live Science reports.
The researchers posted themselves at four strategic locations in Cardiff where there was abundant nightlife. Between 8:00 p.m. and 3:00 a.m., the team approached every seventh person who walked past and asked permission to measure blood-alcohol levels with a breath test.
The team also asked a subset of the same people questions on how drunk they perceived themselves to be and whether they thought drinking was a health risk. The participants were asked to rate how drunk they were on a scale of one to ten, ten being the drunkest. They rated how likely they thought drinking would cause health problems in the next 15 years, also from one to ten, ten being the most confirmation.
They tried as much as possible to interview people who were not in the same social circles but were in the same locations to minimize the effect of social relationships on the data.
Over the period of one year, the researchers collected data on over 1,800 people and amassed survey responses from 400 of them. Those with blood-alcohol levels of zero were not included.
On average, the results showed that people thought they were “moderately” drunk, and their health risk was also “moderate.”
The researchers used mathematical models to compute the average level of intoxication compared to how drunk people perceived themselves to be, and how risky they thought their behavior was. They factored in how people might react if they had more drunk or sober people with them.
According to their calculations, “it appears that drinkers are more self-aware of their own level of intoxication when in the presence of those who are sober,” the paper states.
Moore says their study has implications for public health, as it can be used to curb excessive alcohol consumption.
The study was published in the journal BMC Public Health.