*The following is excerpted from an online article from University Herald.
Adolescents' alcohol use is influenced by their close friends' use, regardless of how much alcohol they think their general peers consume, according to a recent study.
"We've known for a long time that friends and peers have an influence on individual alcohol use, but there are no common studies that distinguished between the broader peer group and the friend group's influence on those decisions," Jonathon Beckmeyer, author of the study and an assistant professor at Indiana University, said in a statement.
For the study, Beckmeyer and his colleagues collected and analyzed data from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development's Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. Each participant was 15 years old and was asked a series of questions related to how many teens their age and how many of their friends they thought consumed alcohol, and whether they had consumed alcohol themselves in the past year.
The study demonstrated that the participants' perceptions of how many teens in their direct friend group had consumed alcohol held more weight than the perceptions of how many of their peers overall were consuming. In other words, even if a teen perceived that many teens in general consumed alcohol, they were less likely to have experimented with it themselves if they did not think their friends drank alcohol.
"We're spending our time changing perceptions of the broader peer group, but really what might be the more key determinant of teen alcohol use is what's going on in their own friend group," Beckmeyer said. "Really working to encourage teens to make friendships with non-alcohol-using friends could be one of the more effective things parents can do to help."
The findings were presented on Nov. 19 at the American Public Health Association's Annual Meeting and Exposition in Louisiana.