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Friends have a Greater Influence on Alcohol Use than Peers

Update Date: Nov 19, 2014 01:59 PM EST

Close friends have a greater effect on teenagers' alcohol use than fellow peers, a new study reported.

"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," study author, Jonathon Beckmeyer, assistant professor in the Department of Applied Health Science at the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington, said according to the press release.

For this study, Beckmeyer examined data collected by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development's Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. This database involved 15-year-old participants who were asked about their own alcohol consumption as well as the amount of alcohol that they believed other teens, including their friends, drank.

The results revealed that the amount of alcohol the participant drank was strongly linked to the amount of alcohol that the participant believed his/her friends consumed. The amount of alcohol that the participant believed peers drank was not strongly linked to the participant's own consumption.

"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 study, "Comparing perceptions of how many peers and friends use alcohol: Associations with middle adolescents' own alcohol use," was presented at the American Public Health Association's Annual Meeting and Exposition taking place on November 19 in New Orleans, LA.

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