According to the 2011 Census, there are around 430,000 Sikhs living in the UK, making up a considerable proportion of the British Punjabi population. While the Sikh faith is said to prohibit the consumption of alcohol, problems related to excessive drinking are reported[1] to be something of an open secret within the Sikh community.

BMG’s recent survey of British Sikhs, conducted on behalf of the BBC, set out to uncover and understand more about the attitudes, experiences and drinking habits of the UK Sikh population.  Over 1,000 Sikhs living in the UK were interviewed in-person or online, between the 22nd December 2017 and 14th January 2018.

Some of the key findings from study are presented below:

  1. One quarter of UK Sikhs say that someone in their family has a drinking problem.

When asked, some 27% of respondents said they had a relation suffering with an alcohol problem. Male relations were much more likely to be named as problem drinkers: 32% of those that said that they were aware of someone in their family with a drinking problem said their Fathers were problem drinkers, as did 28% their Uncles, 15% their Grandfathers and 15% their brothers.

  1. Three in five say that they drink alcohol at least ‘occasionally’.

Close to two-thirds of respondents said that they drink alcohol at least occasionally. 13% say they drink alcohol very often, 25% report drinking sometimes, and 24% are occasional drinkers. Meanwhile, 39% said that they are teetotal; combining of 11% who said they have drunk alcohol in the past but no longer drink and 28% that have never drunk during their lifetime. Notably, by a margin of 23 percentage points, male respondents (72%) were more likely than female respondents (49%) to report drinking alcohol.

  1. Results suggest that alcohol problems are strongly associated with feelings of worry and embarrassment.

Just over half (51%) of respondents would be worried about other people finding out about another family member’s drinking problem, including 18% who said that they would be ‘very worried’.

For those respondents who say that they have someone in their family with a drinking problem, the numbers are even higher, with 60% saying they would be very or fairly worried, which compared to 47% of those who don’t have a family member with a drinking problem.

  1. Half of Sikhs report feeling a pressure to drink alcohol at social events

Some 49% of survey respondents said that they felt pressure to drink at social gatherings. Despite alcohol being forbidden in Sikhism, just 8% said there was a pressure not to drink. Around two in five said that they did not feel any pressure either way (42%).

A note on our methodology

Our survey took a mixed method approach, with a total of 1,049 interviews conducted with Sikhs living in the UK. 502 surveys were completed by face-to-face interview and 547 were completed online.

For both the face-to-face and online surveys, screener questions were used to ensure that the respondent either identified as Sikh themselves (i.e. Religiously Sikh), or that a parent or grandparent, were from a Sikh background i.e. the respondent had a close family member who is Sikh.

Results were weighted to reflect the national profile of Sikh adults (aged 18+).

[1] The unspoken UK Punjabi alcohol problem – BBC News


Methodology, fieldwork dates, and a full breakdown of these results will be found here shortly.

For a more detailed breakdown of results from this poll, or any other results from our polling series, please get in touch by email or phone.


0121 333 6006

Robert Struthers – Senior Research Executive – BMG Research

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