Stress and social networking leads to rise in teen alcoholics

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Research suggests that children of alcoholics are more likely to consume alcohol after stressful events than their contemporaries with healthy parents. The chance of a child becoming a heavy drinker is also increased as the size of their social networks grow.

Data from the Sahlgrenska Academy, at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, supported previous studies showing that the children of alcoholics are 50% more likely to have a future problem with drink. The study involved two groups of people divided by whether they came from a family with alcohol problems or not. Each of the groups was again randomly split and assigned a task, one more stressful than the other. In both situations all participants were permitted to drink alcohol with those coming from an alcohol abuse background being more likely to partake.

Anna Söderpalm Gordh, who carried out the research, suggests that, “If alcohol relaxes you when you're stressed, then you should try to find other ways of calming yourself down, relaxation exercises, for example.”

In a separate study carried out on high school students in the US, researchers found that adolescents in higher density school networks were more likely to drink alcohol. The comprehensive, nationwide study found that the risk of students initiating alcohol use increased according to two factors: the number of friends the students named from their school register, and the 3-Step Reach whereby students are able to contact peers through a network i.e. friends of friends. For every additional friend added through these factors the chance of the youth drinking increased by 13%. For youths who did not originally drink their chance of initiating alcohol use increased by 3% for every additional ten friends within a 3-Step Reach.

The message from the researchers from the University of Wisconsin in Madison is that limiting the size of adolescent groups may delay alcohol initiation. This has implications for class and school sizes as well as on the role that parents can play in promoting responsible alcohol use through the small family bonding unit. The authors propose to carry out further research on how the development of social networking sites such as Facebook can influence teen drinking.