Background: Excessive drinking is commonplace at UK Universities. Individuals may misperceive how much they drink compared to others and are less likely to think that they will suffer adverse consequences. Young people often distance themselves and their friends from ‘problem drinkers’.
Objectives: The aim of the study was to explore how student drinkers compared their own drinking behaviours to the drinking behaviours of others.
Methods: An online survey was completed by 416 students aged 18-30 (68.5% female). They were asked ‘how do you think your drinking compares with other people like you?’ and ‘how do you think your behaviour when you drink compares with other people like you?’ Answers were subjected to thematic analysis.
Results: The first main theme was about ‘identification as a ‘good’ drinker’. Participants suggested their own behaviour when drinking was similar to their sober behaviour. Further, they viewed themselves as more able to maintain a balance between staying in control and having fun while drinking. The second main theme was about ‘distancing from being a ‘bad’ drinker. Participants distanced themselves from negative prototypical drinkers, such compulsive or anti-social drinkers. They also attributed their own drinking behaviours to situational factors, but described other people as intentionally violent or aggressive.
Conclusions/Importance: These findings may explain the failure of some health messages to change drinking behaviours. If drinkers perceive that their behaviour when they drink is better than other people’s then they may discount intervention messages. Targeting these biases could be incorporated into future interventions.
Davies, Emma L.Lewis, Emma-Ben C.Hennelly, Sarah E.
Faculty of Health and Life Sciences\Department of Psychology, Social Work and Public Health
Year of publication: 2018Date of RADAR deposit: 2017-12-12