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Monday, June 17, 2013

Influence from friends to drink more or drink less: A cross-national comparison


Drinking habits are socially patterned and social networks influence individuals’ drinking behaviors. Previous studies have focused primarily upon the influence from family members to drink less. Those studies that have focused upon peer influence have been largely confined to social norms among adolescent and college-age drinkers.

By contrast, based in adult populations, this article examines exhortations from friends not only to reduce alcohol consumption but also to increase it.

Survey data in 15 countries that participate in the Gender, Alcohol and Culture: An International Study project (GENACIS) were used to test whether there were country and gender differences concerning the influence to drink less or to drink more by friends and examine if this was affected by the drinking behavior.

The findings revealed that those influenced to drink less had more heavy episodic drinking (HED) occasions than those who did not report such influence. By contrast, influence to drink more, originating mainly from same-sex friends, may be more the result of social situations that encourage all drinkers, regardless of their frequency of HED occasions.

At the country level, influence to drink less for both sexes decreased with the proportion of drinkers in a country. Similarly, influence to drink less for both sexes also decreased in countries where gender roles were more egalitarian.

Thus, in countries where alcohol use is more widespread and fewer differences are observed between male and female gender role expectations, fewer people were influenced to drink less.

These findings have implications for social and behavioral strategies designed to reduce alcohol-related harm across a wide range of cultures.

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