Reduction in Drinking Acceptance Among UK Children

Peer pressure has long been considered a major component of alcohol use among underage drinkers. The need to be accepted by friends often encourages early initiation, even among kids who may not otherwise be interested in using alcohol. Early initiation is a serious problem, given that individuals who begin using alcohol at a young age are exposed longer to the risks that come with alcohol use, such as certain cancers and liver disease.

Positive Peer Pressure

A new study suggests attitudes among students in England may be pushing peer pressure in another direction. In a survey conducted by the NHS and published in late July, there is evidence that students are not impressed when their peers use alcohol, and in fact, may look down upon the behavior.

The survey’s results also indicate that fewer school-aged kids are using alcohol, cigarettes and drugs.

The NHS Information Centre report details information from a 2010 survey conducted among young people in England, asking them to answer questions about smoking, drinking and drug use. The results showed a decline in three major areas.

Among 11- to 15-year-olds, there was a decline from 46 percent to 32 percent of students who believed it was okay for a peer to drink alcohol once per week between 2003 and 2010. In addition, 11 percent of students surveyed in 2010 believed it was okay to get drunk once per week, compared with 20 percent in 2003.

Why Do Teens Drink?

In the 2010 survey, there were 7,300 participants who were surveyed between September and December of 2010. In the most recent survey, a new set of questions was introduced that assessed attitudes about the drinking behaviors of peers. Students were given multiple choice questions.

The most popular reasons provided for why peers drank were "to look cool in front of friends" (76 percent); "to be more sociable with friends" (65 percent); "peer pressure from friends" (62 percent); and "for the buzz" (60 percent).

The researchers noted a significant difference in responses between students who drank and those who did not. For those who drank alcohol within a week before the survey, their most popular reasons offered for why peers drank were "for the rush or buzz" and "to be more sociable." Those who did not drink were more likely to choose "to look cool in front of friends" or "pressure from their friends."

The number of students who had tried alcohol had declined significantly, from 51 percent in 2009 to 45 percent in 2010. This reflects a continuation of a steady decrease. In 2003, 61 percent of school-aged kids had tried alcohol.