In the U.S., young adults consume alcohol more often than people in any other age group and also have high rates of participation in dangerous drinking behaviors. However, not all young adult consumers drink alcohol in the same amounts. In a study scheduled for publication in October 2014 in the journal Addictive Behaviors, a team of Canadian researchers examined the role of status within a group on any given drinker’s habitual pattern of alcohol intake. These researchers concluded that having relatively high social status among one’s peers leads to increased consumption in both young men and young women.
Young Adults And Alcohol
About 52 percent of Americans drink alcohol, according to figures compiled through the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Young adults between the ages of 21 and 29 exceed this rate of consumption by a significant margin. The highest rate of drinking in any age group (69.2 percent) occurs among people between the ages of 21 and 25, while the second highest rate (67 percent) occurs among people between the ages of 26 and 29.
Young adults between the ages of 21 and 29 also participate in the dangerous, drunkenness-inducing pattern of rapid alcohol intake called binge drinking more often than people in any other age group. As with drinking in general, the highest rate of binge drinking (45.1 percent) occurs among those individuals between the ages of 21 and 25, while people between the ages of 26 and 29 maintain the second-highest rate (37.7 percent). In addition, young adults in their 20s have the highest overall rates for heavy drinking, a habitual pattern of excessive alcohol intake linked with clearly elevated risks for the onset of alcoholism and/or alcohol abuse.
Peer Group Status
Status is the term used to describe a person’s position or ranking of importance within a social group. Part of any given person’s social status comes from how he or she behaves or the things that he or she accomplishes within a group. In addition, part of a person’s status comes from inborn traits that he or she cannot change, including such things as his or her family’s preexisting social ranking, his or her racial/ethnic background and his or her gender. Status plays a role in the relationships that form between members of the same peer group, as well as in the relationships that form between separate groups at various levels of society.
Impact On Drinking Behaviors
In the study scheduled for publication in Addictive Behaviors, researchers from Canada’s University of Toronto, Western University and Centre for Addiction and Mental Health used an examination of 293 alcohol consumers to explore the impact that a young adult’s group social status has on his or her habitual drinking behaviors. All of the study participants were approached while heading out for a night of drinking in a peer group that contained only men or only women. The researchers determined the status rankings within each group and later asked each group member to complete an Internet-based survey designed to identify characteristic levels of alcohol intake over the previous 365 days.
After reviewing the gathered information, the researchers concluded that social status within a group of alcohol-consuming peers has a significant impact on how much alcohol a young adult typically consumes. Specifically, they found that, among young adult men, a higher social status is linked with more frequent bouts of both relatively moderate and relatively extreme binge drinking. They also found that, among young women, a higher social status is linked with drinking more often overall. In addition, they found that, among both young men and young women, people with higher status within a drinking group consume the most alcohol on the single night of heaviest alcohol consumption within a given year.
Based on their findings, the study’s authors concluded that a young adult’s ranking within his or her group of alcohol-consuming peers appears to have a substantial impact on his or her chances of participating in a risky pattern of drinking, including both binge drinking (among men) and heavy drinking (among women). The authors believe that an understanding of the impact of social status could potentially lead to significant improvements in public health efforts to stop young adults from getting involved in risky alcohol intake.
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