Drunk brothers set role model

Older siblings are a major
influence on copycat binge drinking, a new study by Queensland University of
Technology has found.

Ryan McAndrew, from the
university’s School of Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations, said of
those surveyed, males aged three, four and five years older than their brothers
played a significant role in influencing drinking levels.

“Siblings within one to two years
of age may see their older siblings as more of an equal than one who possesses
power. They will therefore be less likely to be influenced by them but older
siblings are close enough to have a high frequency of contact, and old enough
for the younger sibling to see them as an authority figure,” he said.

The study of young adults aged 18
to 30 looked at the age, gender and cultural influences of siblings to
influence drinking behaviours.

Mr. McAndrew said overall siblings
exerted a force in alcohol consumption but the extent of this force was dependent
on the age and gender combinations of the siblings.

“For example all-male siblings
recorded the strongest similarity in drinking behaviours compared with
all-female and male-female siblings,” he said.

“It is likely that sibling rivalry
elicits competitive actions by the sibling pair, as drinking is associated with
physical stamina and prowess, a male pair may engage in drinking to see who can
drink the most.” 

Mr. McAndrew said risky drinking by
young people was a major health problem in Australia with about 50 per cent of
18 year olds already drinking at risky levels.

“Unsurprisingly 18 to 24 years olds
have been found to report the highest prevalence of risky alcohol consumption
of all age groups,” he said. “Because of this young people are those most at
risk from the dangers of excessive drinking and are therefore an appropriate
audience to be targeted in social marketing campaigns.”

Mr. McAndrew said legal and
educational approaches to reduce alcohol consumption had proved largely

“Creating mass media campaigns that
tell people about the negative effects of drinking won’t change the behaviour
as most people over 18 are already aware of the effects, they don’t need more
education,” he said.

“A social marketing approach does
not use mass media as the sole aspect of the campaign; instead a social
marketing approach looks at altering the cost-benefit equation in people’s mind
to find a compelling reason that will motivate people to reduce drinking.

“In other words, if we want people
to reduce drinking then we need to make them a better offer, one that they want
more than binge drinking.