Tell middle-aged drinkers they're embarrassing, study says
Warning middle aged people they risk embarrassing themselves through drinking is more effective at improving behaviour than highlighting the health implications, a new study has found.
Researchers found that adults aged between 30 and 65 have only “minor” concerns about the health effects of alcohol.
A study at the University of Adelaide, which analysed responses about alcohol consumption from 13 previous papers, found that for the middle-aged people without an existing drinking problem, the "principal barrier to reductions in alcohol consumption is not the lack of information about health risks".
Instead, public health campaigns to reduce alcohol consumption could be more effective if they focus on the risk of behaving inappropriately after drinking too much, the authors suggest.
Acceptable drinking was classed as that which "was appropriate to one's age or stage of life", allowed the group to still meet their responsibilities and adhered to social norms, they found.
The authors said: "The drinkers in these studies were aware of public health messages, but drew upon alternative narratives to re-frame their behaviours in ways that minimised or dismissed personal risk.
"Health was either described as a minor concern or not considered at all."
Lead researcher Emma Muhlack said: "It is surprising that health does not strongly factor in the way that this group thinks about their drinking.
"We knew very little about the decision-making processes that go into the alcohol consumption of middle-age drinkers.
"The results from this review help us to better understand how drinking alcohol fits into their everyday lives and which factors may need to be taken into consideration when attempting to reduce alcohol consumption in this group."
The researchers suggest that campaigns which focus on failing to meet responsibilities because of alcohol and the possible loss of respect may be more effective than health messages.