YOUNG people drink ­significant quantities of alcohol before they go out as they find bars and nightclubs "scary", according to a study.

Researchers at Plymouth University said "pre-­loading" - drinking alcohol before a night out - is increasing in revellers aged 18-23.

The differing price of alcohol in shops and licensed premises was also a major factor in the study, which set out to explain the growth of pre-loading.

Loading article content

Dr Adrian Barton, associate head of Plymouth University's School of Government, led the study, published in the current edition of the journal Drugs and Alcohol Today.

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

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

He said this was predominantly down to an over-reliance on the assumption it is linked to economics. Supporters of minimum pricing say that the move will help tackle the issue of pre-loading by making alcohol in supermarkets more expensive.

However, Scotland's flagship legislation to introduce a minimum price for alcohol faces a lengthy delay after a challenge against the plans was referred to a European court last month.

A previous study conducted by Dr Barton and Dr Kerryn Husk, from the University of Exeter Medical School, found 60%-70% of people drink some alcohol before going out.

Around 50% of these consume "significant quantities", the study found.

The research was carried out over a three-month period with people aged 18 to 23 being interviewed at length about their drinking habits.

Among the responses to questions about why young people pre-load were: "I get scared in clubs so drinking before I go out gives me the courage to face it."