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Binge drinking best tackled through personal networks

Addressing personal friendship networks is the best way to tackle the spread of binge drinking in the UK, the Advertising Association has found.

It come in the wake of a new ad campaign wave from the Home Office which aims to deal with what is perceived as a growing national menace.

The ads contain shocking imagery, including a girl with vomit in her hair, which has grabbed the attention of the media around the world.

Results of the AA’s research establish that social influence operating through personal friendship networks alone explains the large rise in binge drinking among young people seen recently in the UK.

The pilot study examined whether the rise in binge drinking is a “fashion” phenomenon, which has spread by observing and copying what other people do.

Many previous studies have related movements in alcohol consumption to factors such as disposable income, price and advertising.

None of these, the report claims, have taken into account the possible effect of copying the behaviour of others ie. of fashion, as an important causal factor.

In this new research a standard market research survey was carried out in order to discover both the number of binge drinkers in the 18-24 year old population, where the problem is most acute, and their friendship patterns in terms of drinking behaviour.

The research shows that there are decisive differences in the drinking behaviour of friends of binge drinkers compared to the drinking behaviour of friends of non-binge drinkers.

By far the most dramatic difference is seen in the behaviour of friends. Some 85 per cent of binge drinkers think that most or all of their friends binge drink, compared to just 41 per cent for non-binge drinkers.

Conversely, only 3 per cent of binge drinkers have no or hardly any friends that binge drink, compared to 22 per cent of non-binge drinkers.

The importance of the personal networks also extends to work colleagues. 65 per cent of binge drinkers think that most or all of their work colleagues binge drink, compared to just 34 per cent for non-binge drinkers. Whilst not as big a difference as with networks of friends this is still statistically a highly significant difference.

Advertising Association Chief Executive, Baroness Buscombe said, “This research shows conclusively that the people around us are the key influences in terms of our relationship with alcohol, not alcohol advertising.

“Not only do the findings of this study confirm this to be the case but they also demonstrate that a new approach to tackle binge drinking is required.”

She added, “Alcohol misuse is clearly a hugely important social issue that must be taken seriously. This new and compelling research highlighting the importance of personal friendship networks shows that tackling alcohol misuse is about encouraging behavioral change so people develop a healthy relationship with alcohol.

“Using the advertising industry as a positive and powerful tool to tackle serious societal problems would be a constructive way forward.”
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source: U Talk Marketing

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