Background: Drunkenness is common in nightlife environments and studies suggest it can be considered both
desirable and normal by nightlife users. We aimed to compare UK nightlife users’ ideal levels of drunkenness to
their expected drunkenness on a night out and their perceptions of descriptive nightlife norms.
Methods: A cross-sectional survey with nightlife patrons (n = 408, aged 18–35) in three cities. Using a scale from 1
(completely sober) to 10 (very drunk), participants rated: personal drunkenness at survey; expected drunkenness on
leaving nightlife; perceived descriptive drunkenness norm in the city’s nightlife; and ideal personal drunkenness.
Analyses were limited to those who had or were intending to consume alcohol.
Results: Almost half of participants (46.8%) expected to get drunker than their reported ideal level on the night of
survey, rising to four fifths of those with the highest levels of expected drunkenness. 77.9% rated typical nightlife
drunkenness ≥8 but only 40.9% expected to reach this level themselves and only 23.1% reported their ideal
drunkenness as ≥8. Higher expected drunkenness was associated with higher ideal drunkenness, higher perceived
drunkenness norm and later expected home time.
Conclusions: Nightlife users’ perceptions of typical drunkenness in nightlife settings may be elevated and many of
the heaviest drinkers are likely to drink beyond their ideal level of drunkenness. Findings can support emerging
work to address cultures of intoxication in nightlife environments and suggest that interventions to correct
misperceptions of normal levels of nightlife drunkenness may be of benefit.
Keywords: Alcohol consumption, Intoxication, Nightlife, Social norms