“While students do have knowledge of responsible drinking guidelines, many simply don't apply them to their own behaviour.”
Understanding the true nature of young people's alcohol consumption is helping policy makers and social change marketers to be more effective, thanks to Otago Business School studies.
Associate Professor Kirsten Robertson has been looking at the extent of drinking for some time. In particular, she has been studying how accurate drinkers are at calculating the standard drink content of popular beverages, which is important to know when examining the extent of binge drinking.
Alcohol is a major global health issue, and many countries, New Zealand included, have alcohol consumption guidelines. However, there are concerns about whether people understand then use the standard drink measure, and if that affects over-consumption. The assumption underpinning our understanding of the drinking culture is that drinkers can accurately record their own drinking.
Excessive consumption is endemic in student populations worldwide, and students do not follow these guidelines in general. The question is why - how can we develop more targeted safe drinking messages?
What we've found
One study lead by Dr Robertson is helping understand assumptions around what a standard drink measure is. This looked at students' knowledge of drink measures, and their ability to self-report drinking reliably.
She has developed more accurate recording techniques than drinking diaries, which show students underestimate how much they actually consume, particularly the heavier drinkers.
She has found while students do have knowledge of responsible drinking guidelines, many simply do not apply them to their own behaviour. In fact, many reported using the standard drinking labels to maximise consumption by working out what would get them intoxicated more quickly.
If knowledge does not guide personal consumption, there are clear signals to policy makers that other forms of education are needed to help moderate behaviour. The team is looking at new interventions to see what could work.