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May 2021 

A new study published in the journal Health & Place in March, 2021 explored how neighborhood and social network characteristics are related to adult binge alcohol use. They found that higher social cohesiveness reduces the likelihood of binge alcohol use. In unsafe, disorderly neighborhoods with low cohesion more interconnected social networks led to lower binge alcohol use.

new study published in the journal Health & Place in March, 2021 explored how neighborhood and social network characteristics are related to adult binge alcohol use.

The study utilized online surveys from adults ages 30 to 80 years, drawn randomly from the RAND American Life Panel. Key findings are as follows:

  • Living in a highly cohesive neighborhood reduces the likelihood of binge alcohol use;
  • In safe and orderly neighborhoods, people with more interconnected social networks are more likely to consume alcohol “socially” and consume heavily in these occasions, regardless of cohesiveness.
  • However, neighborhood and network factors control how often a person might binge on alcohol. This is possibly through neighbors checking up on each other.
  • In disordered, unsafe communities that are lacking cohesion, neighborhood factors lose their overall impact. In such neighborhoods people with more interconnected social networks are less likely to engage in binge alcohol use.

 

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A new study published in the journal Alcohol & Alcoholism has found alcohol adverts commonly appeal to minors.

Half of 11 to 17-year-olds surveyed reacted positively to the adverts featuring Fosters and Smirnoff brands (53% and 52% respectively), and a third reacted positively to an advert featuring the Haig Club brand (34%). Among adolescents who had never consumed alcohol, associations were seen between positive reactions to the adverts and susceptibility to initiate alcohol use in the next year.

For more

Facebook are a big part of the problem… Facebook Exposed: Harvesting Data of Minors For Big Alcohol Targeting

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Young People: Late adolescence/early adulthood is a time when diagnosable mental distress often starts, and young people experiment with substances. This is typically a transition period with a lot  of change11.

Co-existence of alcohol misuse and mental distress can be as high as 53% among those attending youth-specific alcohol and other drug services54. It is estimated that eliminating alcohol misuse could mean rates of mental distress decrease by up to 15% among young New Zealanders14.

Alcohol affects brain function, and for young people, high levels of consumption occur at a time when the brain is still developing25. This means that adolescent brains are more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol, with impacts on decision-making abilities, personality, and regulation of feelings26,55. The evidence is growing in this space, illustrating that alcohol has impact on not only functioning but brain structure.

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youthdrinkingYouth drinking declines: What have we learned? (NDARC-2021)

Some Take Aways from this Overview

Review of surveys and data sets analysed between 2001-2018 revealed,

  • Average @ 60% decrease in numbers of teens underage drinking
  • Average @ 35% decrease in young adult drinking 18-29 y.o. demographic
  • Significant increase in teenagers not drinking at all by approximated 50%
  • Teens drinking at risky levels also reduced by about 50%

Why these shifts?

Some contributing factors are (none are silver bullets and all mostly small, not significant influencer)

  1. Young people attitudes shift in concerns that alcohol causes most deaths and harms in their community and demographic (again consistent public health messaging taking effect)
  2. Smaller generation gap issue. Changing family dynamics, warmer parenting with more quality and quantity time, which consequently facilitates greater supervision and expectation about teen activity and where abouts. Better modelling by parents around alcohol use, including frequency and intensity changes. (Icelandic model reflects much of this)
  3. Shifting attitudes to alcohol and teen reactions against previous heavy drinking cohorts.
  4. Increasing focus on health and fitness – young people want to focus on study and success and see drinking as taking away from ability to do that…Once into young adult hood, can ‘let hair down’ a bit more. Alcohol increasingly more associated with poor health and health outcomes both short and long term.  Short term diminished capacity for study due being sick is increasingly seen as a liability. Again, growing community awareness of these realities e.g. cancer, mental health etc, may also drive this attitude.
  5. Changing patterns in leisure – Online based activities may mean a significant reduction in the peer proximity contagion e.g. not congregating with friends in public or private spaces and engaging in boredom and peer pressure initiated drinking. Online
  6. Policy changes – Policy didn’t seem to drive change, more reflect it, but the combination of both attitude and legislation brings weight to bear in culture shift, e.g secondary supply laws, alcohol pop tax etc. Cultural position of alcohol is shifting. Not so much the central amenity
  7. Other – Shift to other substances? This research seems to think this is not so, as a other risky behaviours seem to follow the same trajectory – Authenticity in being and relating. Teens are communicating they find non-drinking peers more ‘real and supportive’ and easier to forge genuine intimacies with. Surveillance – the advent of ‘instant recording and sharing’ via social media technologies, this both adds to the volume and frequency of ‘live’ negative harms/consequences of alcohol use, but also vulnerabilities to exposure to ridicule, blackmail or sabotaging future opportunities.

Dalgarno Institute: Further Reflections

Culture shift on any level requires multiple factors and as we have argued continuously for decades, education and legislation work far more effectively to shift both societal attitudes and culture, than simply education alone.

Consistency in both messaging, practice and modelling in an all-of-society context is also vital for culture shift to occur. The avoidance of contradictions or confusion in messages and models, as well as in policies and practices is imperative if we are to avoid the undermining of protective and preventative measures for the emerging generation – our children.  Any contradictions of messaging and modelling in the public square only creates the cognitive dissonance and inertia in proactive best proactive public health change that the broader society is mandated to bring to the young – The future generations that it is charged for providing the best opportunity to grow strong, healthy and productively in every area of development.   

This must include…

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