Page last updated: February 18, 2014

Young people - ‘Drinking is our modern way of bonding’

A study published in The Journal of Psychology and Health examined age and sex differences in drinking motives to better inform development of targeted interventions to reduce alcohol-related harm, arguing that efforts to discourage excessive alcohol use among young people can only be effective if the target audience is exposed to, attends to, and comprehends key messages.

Thirty individual interviews and 12 group interviews were conducted with English 13-25 year-olds. Interviewees gave multiple motivations for drinking - especially those related to image and reputation, and played down the health implications of heavy drinking.
Negative aspects of drinking - caring for drunk friends, being cared for when drunk and suffering through hangovers with friends - were considered to offer opportunities for closer interpersonal bonding than other social activities.
Respondents distanced themselves from ‘problem’ drinkers, but disapproved of others’ problematic drinking or antisocial behaviour. Narrative messages demonstrating the social consequences of excessive consumption were preferred to single, static messages emphasising risk or harm. Interviewees noted that interventions must use an engaging tone or pitch; they considered many campaigns to be patronising or preaching.
A lack of consensus between age and sex groups highlighted a need for multifaceted, multi-modal approaches that utilise mobile technologies and new media.
Source: ‘Drinking is our modern way of bonding’: young people’s beliefs about interventions to encourage moderate drinking de Visser RO; Wheeler Z; Abraham C; Smith JA Psychology and Health Vol 28, No 12, 2013, pp1460-1480.

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