Thursday, April 21, 2011

We drink alcohol like our mates drink alcohol - or...? What is driving a habit?

Perhaps not so surprising, but research has found that we copy our friends´ behaviour when it comes to alcohol consumption. We drink like our friends.

“The influence of your friends and people you have connections with can affect your health just as much as your family history or your genetic background," says Nicholas Christakis, professor of medicine at Harvard University and lead author of a study of drinking habits.

In the study, self-reported alcohol intake over time followed changes in the alcohol intake of the respondents' social contacts and researchers found that a person was 50 percent more likely to drink heavily if a person they are directly connected with also drinks heavily and 36 percent more likely to drink heavily if a friend of a friend drinks heavily.

According to The Economist, the world drank the equivalent of 6.1 litres of pure alcohol per person in 2005, (data from the World Health Organisation published on February 11th 2011).

“The biggest boozers are mostly found in Europe and in the former Soviet states. Moldovans are the most bibulous, getting through 18.2 litres each, nearly 2 litres more than the Czechs in second place. Over 10 litres of a Moldovan's annual intake is reckoned to be 'unrecorded' home-brewed liquor, making it particularly harmful to health. Such moonshine accounts for almost 30% of the world's drinking. The WHO estimates that alcohol results in 2.5m deaths a year, more than AIDS or tuberculosis. In Russia and its former satellite states one in five male deaths is caused by drink.”

Is the Harvard research giving us a solution to the drinking problems of the world (or use it as a way to sell more drinks...)? Can we send out troops of drinkers or non-drinkers to spread their habits to others? I´m not sure.

We don´t really know if we drink because our buddies are drinking, or if we hang out with the buddies who like their booze in the same way as us...

My dad was an alcoholic, and he didn´t become one because his friends were heavy consumers. No, he wanted to justify his drinking urge by spending his day in a house where everyone else craved the vodka as well. If you want to eat rubbish food, be negative in your mindset or drink yourself to death, you will not be comfortable to have friends who are little positive, wholesome angels. No, you will think those healthy people are annoying – and you will prefer those who don´t nag or judge you. Addictions are complex, and no one who has never felt the craving can understand someone who has.

But anyway, if you are surrounded with ‘good’ influence at early age, I think that may give you a choice in life, beyond your biological mix of genes attracting you to bad stuff.

10 food & drinks trends if you are interested in this area:

And an article from MIT, explaining why it´s hard to break a habit:

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