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What are the Riskiest Places for Young People to Drink?

Where young people drink can have an effect on the negative consequences associated with alcohol, a recent study finds. The research, carried out by the Prevention Research Center of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in the U.S., along with Massey University in New Zealand, was based on a survey of 3,747 16-29-year-olds in New Zealand. Respondents were asked about where they drank and how much as well as any alcohol-related consequences they experienced.

Drinking locations were divided into nine categories: own home, others’ homes, bars/nightclubs, restaurants/coffee shops, special/sports events, private motor vehicle, outdoor public place, workplace and any other locations. Alcohol-related consequences were categorized as 1) disorderly behavior (physical fights, serious argument, or forced to leave a place); 2) Symptoms of dependency (drunk when needed to be sober, drank alcohol in the morning, had hands shake in the morning, stayed intoxicated for several days); 3) Heavier drinking effects (ashamed of actions while drinking, missed work after drinking, unable to remember after drinking); 4) Felt effects the next day (felt effects of alcohol the next day, felt effects next day on study, felt effects next day on work)

The results indicated that respondents who reported drinking in bars and nightclubs, even if consuming only one drink per occasion, were more likely to experience negative consequences. Further, these respondents were more likely to report some of the more serious consequences, including alcohol-related disorderly behavior and heavy drinking effects, including being ashamed of actions and missing work the next day. These findings suggest that bars and nightclubs are risky contexts for young people. Even while consuming only one drink, drinking in these settings is related to an increased risk of consequences. Risks for these negative consequences were more strongly related to whether the respondents went to bars/nightclubs than they were to drinking heavily when they went.

The study authors concluded that bars and nightclubs are inherently risky places for drinking by young people. Better controls on drinking in these settings are needed in order to prevent negative consequences.

Drinking in other settings, such as others' home, private motor vehicles, and outdoor public places where the drinkers most likely purchased the alcohol in stores, was also associated with negative consequences. The development of novel prevention efforts directed at drinking in these contexts must be pursued to reduce alcohol-related harm to young people in these settings.

Reference: Context-Specific Drinking Risks among Young People, by Taisia Huckle, Paul Gruenewald, and William Ponicki, in Alcoholism Clinical and Experimental Research, April 2016.