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Friends key to healthy drinking habits among young people

Friends the key to healthy drinking habits among young people

March 24, 2014

Friends, not parents, are the key to encouraging healthy drinking habits among young people, University of Canterbury (UC) research shows.

The research by marketing masters student, Sarah Pratt, looked at different ways to discourage binge drinking among young university students.

"We looked at whether different people are more effective at discouraging students from binge drinking and whether binge drinking was more prevalent on different occasions.

"Advertisements were created showing people with different relationships to the participants telling them to stop drinking on a night out.

"The results showed that when students weren’t able to relate to an advertisement, then no one was able to positively influence a young person to stop drinking excessively, regardless of how close their relationship was to the student.

"A bartender was equally effective as a person's best friend or parent. Our results show that a strategy of taking care of friends by telling them when to stop drinking on a night out is an ineffective solution. Greater steps should be taken to ensure discussions are had prior to going drinking," Pratt says.

The research also found binge drinking was more socially acceptable at a 21st birthday party than on a normal Friday night out drinking.

However, the acceptability of binge drinking on a Friday night was still high enough to warrant concern, given its more regular occurrence compared to a one off drinking event, like a 21st.

Associate Professor Ekant Veer, who supervised the research, says the study showed that people who took part in the study reported significantly lower attitudes towards binge drinking, but this did not necessarily translate into decreased likelihood of binge-drinking.

"Those who reported a negative attitude towards alcohol over-consumption reported a heightened liking of alcohol, just not in excessive amounts.

"Those who related heavily to the advertisements reported feeling more influenced by their best friends, rather than their parent. This is indicative of young people changing where they derive knowledge and ideas from - away from their parents and more closely aligned with their peer group.

"This could be an indication that being told not to drink any more by one's mother is seen as patronising and reflective of a relationship that a young person is no longer wishing to be associated with, compared with a best friend who participants felt more positively towards.

"It also reflects the ongoing trend away from punitive fear based appeals in social advertising messages, whereby an authority figure presents a less desirable advocate for healthy behaviour compared to peers.

"Trying to stop someone binge drinking while partying is not an effective method of curbing binge drinking behaviour. We recommend that more effort be put on having these discussions with people before going out, preferably by peers, rather than authority figures.

"Groups such as Students Against Driving Drunk (SADD) may continue to be a more important group than parents in driving young people's drinking behaviour," Associate Professor Veer says.


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