The Department of Health will today identify the nine personality types of heavy drinkers at risk of liver damage and other alcohol-related illnesses that are costing the NHS in England about £2.7bn a year.
Its researchers investigated the social and psychological characteristics of problem drinkers in an attempt to devise more effective public health campaigns to encourage safer use of alcohol.
They found that people who regularly drink at least twice the daily guidelines of 35 units a week for women and 50 for men ranged from depressives drinking at home alone over extended periods to macho exhibitionists who spend almost every evening in the pub.
The department said it was using social marketing techniques to tailor its propaganda to suit all the target personalities.
A spokesman said: "This will be a tough one to crack. Research found many positive associations with alcohol among the general public - even more so among those drinking at higher-risk levels. For these people alcohol is embedded in their identity and lifestyle: so much so that challenging this behaviour results in high levels of defensiveness, rejection or even outright denial."
The nine alcohol-fuelled personality types are:
· "De-stress drinkers" use alcohol to regain control of life and calm down. They include middle-class women and men.
· "Conformist drinkers" are driven by the need to belong and seek a structure to their lives. They are typically men aged 45 to 59 in clerical or manual jobs.
· "Boredom drinkers" consume alcohol to pass the time, seeking stimulation to relieve the monotony of life. Alcohol helps them to feel comforted and secure.
· "Depressed drinkers" may be of any age, gender or socioeconomic group. They crave comfort, safety and security.
· "Re-bonding drinkers" are driven by a need to keep in touch with people who are close to them.
· "Community drinkers" are motivated by the need to belong. They are usually lower middle class men and women who drink in large friendship groups.
· "Hedonistic drinkers" crave stimulation and want to abandon control. They are often divorced people with grown-up children, who want to stand out from the crowd.
· "Macho drinkers" spend most of their spare time in pubs. They are mostly men of all ages who want to stand out from the crowd.
· "Border dependents" regard the pub as a home from home. They visit it during the day and the evening, on weekdays and at weekends, drinking fast and often.
The department will today launch a trial information campaign in north-west England to persuade problem drinkers to cut down. It will include self-help packs, available online and in printed form, telling drinkers how to calculate the medical risks associated with different levels of alcohol intake. The DrinkCheck web tool will be available at www.nhs.uk/units.
Dawn Primarolo, the public health minister, said: "The pilot will help up to 4,000 drinkers cut down in the first year alone."