Drinkaware is the leading UK-wide alcohol education charity that uses research and evidence to help people make better choices about drinking.

Every year, it commissions a ‘Drinkaware Monitor’ survey to find out who’s drinking, how much, and why.

In 2021, the survey looked at the nation’s drinking more than a year into the coronavirus pandemic.

To build on its findings from 2020, Drinkaware wanted to dig deeper into how drinking habits had changed during the pandemic.

It commissioned us to do the digging.

Our role

  • Qualitative research
  • Quantitative data analysis
  • Data visualisation and reporting

TL;DR: PS Research analysed quantitative data and carried out qualitative research to provide a deeper understanding of alcohol consumption in 2021 and presented the findings in an engaging way for different audiences.

How we helped

Drinkaware came to us for quantitative research. They left with a combination of quantitative analysis and qualitative research across four reports, designed to engage multiple stakeholders.

That’s the advantage of mixed methods: it helps you get more from your research.

By coming to the project with fresh ideas, we suggested new ways of analysing and reporting that painted a more complete picture. We were then able to work with (not for) the Drinkaware team to realise them: our research industry knowledge and software combined with their subject expertise.

We approach every project with the same aim: helping you make a difference.

We’re proud to have lent our skills to the brilliant work Drinkaware does.

What does the data really mean?

That’s what Drinkaware wanted to know.

They had data tables and technical reports from YouGov. They needed to dig into the data even more and present the findings in a way that engaged professional stakeholders.

We got to work with YouGov’s fancy analysis tool, exploring trends over time, looking for significant differences from previous annual data, performing demographic comparisons, creating new segments and cutting the data up in different ways. From this, we found new meaning and fresh insights including, for example, the relationship between deprivation and alcohol.

Image of some charts about alcohol and deprivation

These quantitative findings became the source material for some storytelling.

Behind every statistic is a story

From the results of the 2020 Monitor and 2020 Impact Report, Drinkaware identified four priority groups who reported drinking more than they would have before the pandemic:

  1. High-risk drinkers
  2. People facing redundancy
  3. People whose mental health had been negatively impacted
  4. Parents of under 18s

What the quantitative analysis didn’t show was the people behind the numbers. Drinkaware needed to know the why behind the who.

To gather qualitative insights that quickly complemented the quantitative findings, we created an online community of 30 participants.

Taking the community approach gave us the advantage of being able to set different interactive tasks to learn more about each person and their drinking during the pandemic.

Over seven days, participants were asked to complete different tasks:

  • A daily alcohol diary​
  • A card sort activity around socially acceptable situations in which to drink alcohol​
  • A graph and video activity to ‘map your mood and your drinking across the pandemic’
  • A card sort activity around motivations to drink alcohol​

Tasks were kept as simple as possible to encourage participation and made informative so that each person could understand more about their drinking habits.

Analysis of the results from the online community gave us a deeper understanding of their motivations. Where YouGov data revealed people were drinking more during the pandemic, qualitative research uncovered why.

Image of a report page summarising some qualitative research

Learning more about the online community also meant we were able to revisit the 2021 Monitor with fresh eyes, ask new questions of the data and present more informative findings. Speaking of which…

Please the eyes before engaging the mind

For data to be of any use, it has to make sense to whoever is looking at it. Drinkaware’s audience includes internal stakeholders and staff, policymakers, the media, academics, and the general public.

To engage these audiences in a single report and complement the Technical Report, findings were presented using interactive “bouncy” charts and graphs. Information was colour-coded. Icons were used to help visualise key points and statistics.

We used engaging headlines to draw attention to important insights…

●      …And bullet points to provide context concisely.

The language was purposely kept simple, avoiding the use of jargon. Any technical terms used were fully explained in the introduction and links to additional data were included throughout.

This made data easy to digest, cite and share with different people. 

Image of a page in a report with a chart and some analysis highlights

Expanding the findings

The 2021 Monitor report helped us present Drinkaware’s audiences with a picture of UK-wide alcohol consumption. It also gave them findings to expand upon. 

To make the research work harder, Drinkaware asked if we could create additional resources:

  • Three nation reports for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
  • An interactive data library that brought survey data together in one place  

Each nation report built on YouGov survey data and the findings from our qualitative research. We looked closely at how the pandemic impacted drinking in each country and compared data with overall findings. Then compiled findings in short, easily-digestible 12-page summaries.

For design consistency and ease of use for stakeholders, we based individual reports on our original Monitor research template (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it). 

Image of a page from a nations research report

These were complemented by the data library, which acts as a simple dashboard that users can access to quickly find specific data around drinking behaviours.  

By breaking data down in this way, it means decision-makers, educators and the media can go in and pull out exactly what they need.

Putting the reporting to use

One of the (many) great things about working with Drinkaware is that they value research and work to get the most out of it.

They’ve ensured the benefits of the reports have been wide reaching.

  • Videos featuring real stories from the online community have been used for internal training on how alcohol impacts lives
  • Findings have been shared with policymakers such as the Welsh Parliament
  • Key messages communicated in the report have been used to increase media exposure

It’s not easy turning numbers on a page into action, so it’s nice to see research we’ve been involved in being put to good use.

Take a look at the Drinkaware Monitor 2021.

Adam and Emma’s robust research provides us with powerful insight for Drinkaware; accompanied by excellent customer service and a rapid turnaround.

Annabelle Bonus

Director of Evidence and Impact, Drinkaware

Want a couple of expert northerners for your next research project?