Health Spain , León, Thursday, May 14 of 2015, 16:41

The influence of social networks on teenagers' alcohol consumption is researched

The Salbis (Salud, Bienestar y Sostenibilidad Socio-sanitaria or Health, Wellbeing, and Socio-sanitary Sustainability) Research Group of the University of León considers that this information is vital to the development of effective awareness campaigns

Cristina G. Pedraz/DICYT Alcohol is potentially one of the most dangerous drugs, in particular because of the social acceptance of its consumption. Adolescence is a decisive stage in the establishment and modification of healthy habits, which at this age are highly conditioned by young people's networks of contacts (friends, acquaintances, relatives, social idols, etc.) and need to be known before any intervention can be proposed.


For this reason, the Salbis (Salud, Bienestar y Sostenibilidad Socio-sanitaria or Health, Wellbeing, and Socio-sanitary Sustainability) Research Group of the University of León (ULE), led by the lecturer Pilar Marqués, is working on teenagers' alcohol consumption and social networks in the identification of influential players and their application in the acquiring of healthy habits.


As José Enrique Bayón, one of the members of the Group involved in this research, has explained to us, according to the latest report of the Spanish Drug Observatory almost 82 per cent of teenagers have consumed alcohol in the past year and 74 per cent in the past month. Furthermore, over 18 per cent indulge in binge drinking (the consumption of five or more alcohol units within two hours).


“Teenagers are very easily influenced by their social surroundings in a bidirectional manner; the individual influences his/her contacts and these in turn influence the individual. Owing to the fact that habits acquired in adolescence may persist into adult life to cause serious health problems, these influences must be quantified so that we can tackle this problem efficiently”, the researcher points out.


However, current research is generating a gap in the evidence regarding how this social influence is transmitted. “We need to go more deeply into the reasons for excessive alcohol consumption from a social perspective and to get to know which existing contact patterns for teenagers are related to the consumption of other drugs, socialisation habits through digital networks, sexual behaviour, the use of free time, etc.”, he adds.

Identification of influential players


The Salbis Research Group is carrying out a research project with the ultimate aim of describing the influence of the teenager's network of relationships on his/her alcohol consumption and its attribution to established behavioural patterns. It likewise plans to analyse teenagers' networks that encourage the acquiring of healthy habits.


The study represents the core of the doctoral thesis of the researcher of the group Enedina Quiroga Sánchez and applies the Social Network Theory, which explains the behaviour of the individual depending on contact models, and its method of quantifying relationships known as the Social Networks Analysis (Análisis de Redes Sociales, ARS). The data are obtained from standard anonymous tests answered in writing by means of a computer application developed by the Group. “This is an innovative line of research that is giving rise to numerous studies and theses; we aim to exploit this in our study”, Bayón points out.


A doctoral thesis includes various stages of development such as the carrying out of the project, the search for partners, field work and data collection, the analysis of the latter, and the drawing of conclusions and the exploitation of the results. At the time of writing the project has already been drawn up and the members contacted, and the field work is expected to begin in about four months.


Designing preventive strategies


The study of the social networks affecting teenagers' alcohol consumption has important practical implications. Although it is clear that alcohol consumption by young people is influenced by friends and even parents who consume, and awareness campaigns have been carried out in educational settings and in the media, these measures “are still considered to be insufficient, possibly because we do not know how this influence is transmitted”.


“Knowledge in a network key would make it easier to plan multi-factor environmental strategies, a perspective that is strongly supported by the literature on alcohol consumption”, the researcher affirms. The aim of the project is therefore to develop preventive strategies to reduce the negative impact of alcohol on young consumers, not only regarding their health as individuals but also in a social and family context, thus helping to reduce the impact of these problems on the socio-sanitary system.




Salbis Research Group
Salbis is a multidisciplinary research group that includes lecturers and collaborators from various departments and areas of the University of León, such as Nursing and Physiology, Biomedical Science, Physiology, Public Health, and Computer Engineering.