How Friends Influence Friends to Drink, or Not Drink

The social networks of women are vastly different than those of men. Women tend to benefit from frequent connections with friends and derive support from those networks. Researchers are working to understand how those networks affect other choices and behaviors.

Though it is known that men navigate social networks differently than women, researchers are working to understand how that associates with another known association between social networks and drinking. Manuel, McCrady, Epstein, Cook and Tonigan examined the pretreatment social networks of women who had established alcohol dependence (2007).

Previous research has shown that social networks greatly impact drinking behaviors. However, the differences in gender had not been examined, and Manuel et al. studied this aspect of social networking and drinking disorders.

The study utilized information gathered as part of a larger randomized clinical trial in which 102 women were interviewed before treatment entry. All of the women were in commited heterosexual relationships.

The participants were asked to complete the Important People and Activities instrument to examine the size and dynamics of the women’s social networks. The Timeline Followback interview was also employed to understand pretreatment drinking.

The results of the showed that the participants reported a large supportive network. The participants were examined to determine the drinking quantity and frequency in the three months before treatment was begun, taking into consideration the social network connection.

The results showed an association between drinking frequency and quantity and social networks. Women with moderate to heavy drinking partners were shown to have more days of drinking but drank fewer drinks per day of drinking than women with light to abstaining partners.

There was also an association between the number of drinkers in the woman’s social network and the participant’s number of drinking days.

The information provided by this study is important for understanding the impact of social networks on the drinking behaviors of women with alcohol use disorders. The main finding of the study was the significant relationship between moderate to heavy drinking among members of the woman’s social network and the drinking patterns of women with alcohol-use disorders.

The study provides useful information for those planning intervention and education programs for women. Understanding how women are influenced by the drinking behaviors of those around them will help target women who may benefit from understanding the impact of their social network.