It shows that social networking is a key factor in the spread of the rapid consumption of large amounts of alcohol – binge drinking - which is blamed for serious anti-social and criminal behaviour. The research team used complex modeling techniques and interviews with 504 of 18 to 24 year olds to draw their conclusions.
Binge drinkers were defined as participants who got drunk on three or more drinks (women) or on four or more drinks (men) at least once a week, or having ten or more drinks but not necessarily getting drunk at least once a week (both men and women). Using this criteria, nearly one-fifth (16.2 per cent) of the young people surveyed were classed as binge drinkers.
Everyone in the survey was asked about the drinking behaviour of their friends, family and colleagues. Binge drinkers were more likely to describe their associates, particularly their friends, as fellow binge drinkers.
For example, 85 per cent of the binge drinkers thought that all, almost all or most of their friends are binge drinkers, compared to 41 per cent of non-binge drinkers. Conversely, only three per cent of binge drinkers had no or hardly any friends that binge drank, compared to 22 per cent of non binge drinkers.
The second part of the research tested whether ‘imitation behaviour’ or copying was sufficient to account for the binge drinking through applying a series of models. It found that the ‘small world’ model, showing the interaction between overlapping friendship groups, best explained the statistics. The findings suggest that complex social networking and the behaviour exhibited through this is the root cause.
The researchers say these findings pose challenges for policy makers in terms of identifying where and at whom to target their policies - they would need to tap into a series of complex friendship networks for their efforts to have any effect. However, the invenstigators are convinced, if politicians could achieve this, the effect would be quite dramatic.
MEDICA.de; Source: Durham University