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People more likely to choose a non-alcoholic drink when a wide range is offered


People more likely to choose a non-alcoholic drink when a wide range is offered


People are more likely to choose non-alcoholic drinks if more of those drinks are available than alcoholic alternatives, suggests new research supported by the NIHR. 

Drinking alcohol is among the top five risk factors for disease in the UK, with excessive alcohol consumption contributing to over one million hospital admissions and costing the NHS £3.5 billion every year.  Finding ways to increase the consumption of non-alcoholic alternatives in pubs, bars and restaurants could improve public health.

More than 800 adults who drink alcohol every week took part in an online experiment designed by researchers from the NIHR Bristol Biomedical Research Centre (BRC). The experiment consisted of a hypothetical drink selection task, where participants were given one of four different conditions in which to make their selections. 

The results, published in BMC Public Health, showed that when the proportion of non-alcoholic drinks available was greater than alcoholic drinks, 49% of participants chose a non-alcoholic drink. When the proportion of alcoholic drinks available was greater than non-alcoholic alternatives, this dropped to 26%. The odds of participants selecting a non-alcoholic drink were 48% higher when the proportion of non-alcoholic options was increased, and 71% higher when both the total number and proportion of non-alcoholic options were increased. 

In real-world settings, like at a busy bar, people are likely to make drink choices quickly. However, the online study showed no evidence that giving some participants a time limit to make their selection affected which drink they chose. If the results of the online study are replicated in a real-world setting, increasing the availability of alcohol-free options could have a positive impact on public health and the researchers are now planning a study in a real-world setting, which will examine the impact introducing alcohol-free beer on draught in pubs in Bristol has on alcohol purchasing and consumption.

Dr Anna Blackwell, from the University of Bristol who led the online study, said: “Non-alcoholic drink options are often less prominent in restaurants, pubs and bars. For example, many offer at least one type of alcohol-free beer, but as this is often bottled and kept in the fridge behind the bar, there is greater effort required for customers to choose this option over an alcoholic beer available on draught. “In addition, previous qualitative research has suggested that people experience peer pressure to drink alcohol, so offering alcohol-free alternatives that look like alcoholic drinks would make it easier for people to choose these options. “In the longer-term, widening the choice available for customers and increasing exposure to non-alcoholic drinks could help shift social norms around drinking these products. Given the growing market for alcohol-free beer, wine and spirits, this sort of intervention is timely and of interest not only to policy makers, but also licence holders and drinks manufacturers.”


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