When looking around at your group of friends, you may find many common threads, like enjoying the same activities and sharing similar interests. However, something you might not consider is that your alcohol intake may be directly fused with that of your friends, as well.
When forming relationships, people will always tend to find others who are inclined to want to do the same things so, of course, drinking would be the same. Especially in college, many students look for friends who enjoy going out, or friends who don’t, based on their own habits and opinions.
According to a recent study in Annals of Internal Medicine, our friends and family can heavily influence our drinking habits ‘ if a close friend or relative starts drinking more or gives up alcohol entirely, we are more likely to head in the same direction. Nobody wants to be ‘the drunk’ of the group, that’s just not cool. On the other end of the spectrum, going out with a group of people who love to party while you don’t drink at all can sometimes lead to uncomfortable situations.
This study also found that people were 50 percent more likely to be heavy drinkers if one of their friends or relatives drank heavily. It also showed the reverse effect if a close friend gives up drinking.
Social networks play the largest role in people’s drinking habits. Especially in a college setting, students are more likely to go along with what their friends are doing. Going out four nights a week most likely involves a group of friends who all enjoy drinking.
Sarah Greenberg, a sophomore majoring in psychology, agreed that friends are a big influence on a person’s drinking habits.
‘Because at school I’m with my friends so much, we always want to do the same things, which include the same going out routine,’ Greenberg said.
According to the study, the number of relationships has an impact as well. The more connections an individual has with either drinkers or non-drinkers, the more powerful the influence was ‘ people who hung out with heavy drinkers were 70 percent more likely to drink heavily, and those who associated themselves with people who refrained from drinking were 50 percent more likely to not drink.
Rebecca Reich, a junior majoring in nursing, said that it doesn’t matter whether or not your friends drink as long as they accept your decision not to.
‘College is a lot of fun and you’re always going to have friends that drink. You just have to find some that will be OK with you sitting out,’ Reich said.
Research also concluded that women have a stronger influence on their friends’ drinking habits than men do. No clear reason for this has been found, however. Dr. J. Niels Rosenquist, M.D., one of the study’s authors and a research fellow in health-care policy at Harvard Medical School, hypothesized that it may be because drinking heavily is less socially acceptable for women.
Lila Chess, a senior majoring in human development, said that she had never felt influenced by her friends in regard to drinking alcohol.
‘I’ve never felt more pressure [to drink] as a female,’ Chess said.