Britain’s Punjabi community is facing alcohol problem with 27 per cent of Sikhs in the UK having someone in their family addicted to liquor, according to a survey. The British binge drinking attitude combined with a culture of drinking in Punjab is believed to have created this community-specific issue, said the survey, commissioned by the BBC to investigate attitudes to alcohol among British Sikhs.
The survey in which over 1,000 British Sikhs participated noted that the problem is made worse because British Punjabis often dismiss the notion of seeking help for alcohol addiction due to a culture of shame. “It’s a problem which is rarely talked about openly in the community,” the survey noted. There are around 430,000 Sikhs in the UK, making up a significant proportion of the British Punjabi population.
The survey found that although drinking alcohol is forbidden in Sikhism, 27 per cent of British Sikhs report having someone in their family with an alcohol problem. According to the analysis, when the first Punjabi immigrants, who were mostly men, came to the UK from India in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, many struggled to assimilate in a new country and often worked long hours to send money back home to their families in India.
“The stress of moving to a new culture, the associated language barriers and the racism they faced meant many of these men turned to alcohol to cope. This reliance on alcohol has had generational repercussions,” the survey said. “There is a strong pride and honour for the family name. They don’t want anyone to perceive them as having something wrong with them or any form of weakness,” says Rav Sekhon, a British Punjabi psychotherapist who works with Indian-origin communities in the UK.
“There is stigma associated with chronic alcohol misuse and they don’t want their reputation to be tainted…if there is a dependent drinker in the family what might people think of our family,” adds Jennifer Shergill from the Shanti Project, which supports victims of alcohol abuse.
The BBC survey hopes to shed light on the problem to encourage people to seek help from groups such as the Shanti Project, Sikh Helpline and First Step Foundation.