An academic has said anti-binge drinking campaigns aimed at young people should focus on the benefits of abstaining from alcohol rather than warning of the risks of heavy drinking.

Dominic Conroy of Sussex University found students were more likely to reduce their overall drinking levels if they focused on the benefits of abstaining, such as more money and better health.

He said his research had found typical promotions on the risks of high alcohol consumption and encouraging people to monitor their drinking behaviour were not effective.

Writing in the British Journal of Health Psychology, Dr Conroy said: “We focused on students because, in the UK, they remain a group who drink heavily relative to their non-student peers of the same age.

He added: “Studies have suggested that holding negative views of non-drinkers may be closely linked to personal drinking behaviour and we were interested to see in the current study that these views may have improved as a result of taking part in a non-drinking exercise.

“I think this shows that health campaigns need to be targeted and easy to fit into daily life but also help support people to accomplish changes in behaviour that might sometimes involve ‘going against the grain’, such as periodically not drinking even when in the company of other people who are drinking.”