Sports Stars Not Really Acting as Role Models in Terms of Alcohol Consumption

While sports heroes are often touted as role models for young people, recent research has found that their bad habits actually have no little or no effect on the drinking habits of this segment of the population.

A recent Science Daily release examined a study by researchers at the Universities of Manchester, UK, and Western Sydney, Australia, contradicts the concept that sports stars act as role models for those who follow sports.

"The perceived drinking habits of sports stars and its relationship to the drinking levels of young people has never been examined empirically, despite these sporting heroes often being touted as influential role models for young people," said lead researcher Dr Kerry O’Brien, a lecturer in Manchester’s School of Psychological Sciences, in Science Daily.

"Our research shows that young people, both sporting participants and non-sporting participants, don’t appear to be influenced by the drinking habits of high-profile sportspeople as depicted in the mass media."

In highlighting previous research done in this space, O’Brien suggests that sports and sports stars are much more likely to influence the drinking behavior of fans when used as marketing tools by the alcohol industry.

In asking more than 1,000 young sportspeople at elite and amateur level as well as non-sportspeople to report the perceived drinking behavior of high-profile sport stars compared with their friends, researchers found that both sporting and non-sporting study participants believed sports stars actually drank much less than they did themselves. At the same time, they believed their friends drank substantially more.

Dr O’Brien added: "We are not suggesting that sports stars should not be encouraged to drink responsibly but it’s disingenuous to place the blame on them for setting the bad example. It is time that sport administrators consider their own social responsibilities when weighing up the costs and benefits of using their sports and sport stars to market alcohol on behalf of the alcohol industry."