The binge drinking culture so often associated with young people could be unfair, according to new research by Middlesex academics.
The research, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, found low rates of teenagers drinking compared with other recent surveys in England. One of the reasons given was pressure from friends not to drink as much – suggesting that peer pressure amongst young people can be a force for good as well.
Data showed some non-drinkers attempt to moderate heavier drinking amongst friends. It also showed that people made friends with those that have similar drinking habits, with some non-drinkers preferring the company of other non-drinkers.
The research looked into 14 and 15-year olds from London and Berkshire, and compared to other similar studies, had a larger mix of people from different ethnic and religious backgrounds. The research carried out included surveys, focus groups and interviews.
“We felt there was a positive message from the research. Young people are often vilified and seen as problems, especially when it comes to drinking. But in our report there was a lower level of drinking amongst teenagers, said Middlesex professor Anthony Goodman, who led the research with Rachel Hurcombe, the principal research fellow.
“The findings were broadly positive about the influence young people have on each other in terms of not drinking. Conversely, young people weren’t being pressurised to drink either - the drinkers chose to drink and they found people to drink with. There was positive pressure from people who didn’t drink, but drinkers didn’t pressurise the other way round.”
The study found young people from minority ethnic and religious backgrounds frequently cited concerns about health and risks associated with drinking, gained from education and advertising, as important reasons for why they don’t drink.
It suggests government campaigns and health warnings against alcohol use appear to be effective particularly for young people from backgrounds that discourage alcohol use.
On a wider level, the research showed the multicultural nature of London and the surrounding regions.
Two-thirds of young people from all ethnic groups had at least one friend from a different ethnic background to their own, with boys and girls being equally likely to report having interethnic friendships. The majority of young people said sharing hobbies and interests is more important than the ethnic and religious background of their friends.
The full report, Teenage drinking and interethnic friendships, by Anthony Goodman, Rachel Hurcombe, Jane Healy, Sue Goodman and Emma Ball, is published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
Find out more about research at Middlesex University.