Middle and high school students who drink alcohol are often the same ones winning the popularity contests, new research suggests.
The findings "provide new evidence on the motivation behind adolescent drinking," the researchers wrote in the journal Addictive Behaviors.
"There has not been much data to support that drinking among teenagers directly leads to higher popularity and more friendships," said Peter Delany. He is the director of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA) Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality in Rockville, Maryland.
Researchers analyzed data from a national study of 7th through 12th graders from 132 schools who were surveyed in 1994. The survey included a variety of questions on drinking and substance use, number of friends, friends of friends, home life and other factors.
Teens who reported occasional drinking and getting drunk tended to have higher "social connectedness" than their abstaining peers. That was especially true for white students.
Getting drunk seemed to be more important for popularity than just drinking in general. Kids who drank at all reported having an extra half a friend, on average, and those who got drunk reported one additional friend compared to non-drinkers.