A new study finds a connection between young adults’ social media habits and the nature of their alcohol consumption.
The study, published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, examined associations between young adults’ drinking behavior and the photos and posts of alcohol-fueled parties and behaviors that fill their feeds on social media sites. Despite the pervasive use of social media among young adults, the study says, little is known about its effect on drinking patterns.
Using a systematic review of articles containing data from over 9,000 social media users across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, researchers found greater alcohol-related social media engagement was correlated with both greater self-reported drinking and alcohol problems.
“Substance use, particularly alcohol, is frequently displayed on social media sites – this normalizes drinking for teens and young adults,” lead author Brenda Curtis said. “To date, reviews have considered drinking behavior in relation to risky behavior, such as binge drinking, or advertising content, rather than focusing on alcohol-related social media engagement. “
The study looked at connections between self-reported drinking measures and alcohol-themed social media content – defined as linking, posting, commenting on and viewing alcohol-related content on social platforms – among young adults. Self-reported drinking measures included alcohol consumption and problems such as regret after drinking, blacking out and sustaining injuries while drinking.
The correlation between social media patterns related to alcohol consumption and consumption itself was statistically significant, researchers found, saying further research is necessary to better establish the causal relationship between social media and alcohol consumption.
“This is especially important given that social media sites can expose adolescents and young adults to alcohol content and marketing,” Curtis said. “This exposure may increase the likelihood of their drinking.” She said that additional research could provide opportunities to use social media to attempt to reduce alcohol consumption among young drinkers.