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Young people and alcohol - JRF findings report

Date: December 2010
Category: Report
Author: Pete Seaman & Theresa Ikegwuonu

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Current rates of alcohol consumption among young adults suggest future increases in alcohol-related harm, with considerable social and  financial costs. This study investigated the influences, motivations and  decision-making underpinning the drinking choices of young adults aged between 18 and 25.

Key points:
• Excessive drinking was characteristic of young adults when drinking
in friendship groups. Alcohol had an important cultural role in offering
one of the few occasions in their lives for fun, making and maintaining
friendships and group bonding.
• Excessive consumption was given considerable encouragement and
opportunity in the youth-orientated bars and clubs they felt comfortable
drinking in.
• In deciding how much to drink on a given occasion, the price of alcohol was more likely to curtail consumption than concerns about health or personal risk associated with drunkenness.
• Some individuals suggested that if they were priced out of alcohol
consumption they would seek intoxication through substances available
illegally, such as black market alcohol or other drugs.
• Young adults did not worry about the health risks of alcohol, perceiving their drinking as part of the normal experience of young adulthood and therefore temporary.
• The authors conclude that the potential for harm is not the same
across all groups, as the many pathways through young adulthood
give different opportunities and scope for excessive alcohol use. Those
who find it difficult to attain aspects of full adulthood, such as steady
employment or independent housing, may continue this phase of their
life over a prolonged period.