Youth, Alcohol and Place-Based Leisure Behaviours: a study of two locations in England
Excessive alcohol consumption among young people in England regularly features in national media and has been a focus of recent academic research and government policy. Though the majority of young people do not regularly drink excessively, heavy sessional drinking - 'binge' drinking - is associated with negative health and social consequences for those who do. Alcohol-related health problems in young people are not spread consistently across England, however, and while there are significant intra-regional differences, northern regions fare worse overall than those in the south. This paper draws on an 18-month project which explored differences in the physical, social and regulatory environments (highlighted by previous research as influential) in two locations with contrasting alcohol harm profiles. The paper focuses on the lives of 15-16 year olds and examines potential differences that influence behaviour at this crucial age; and in particular issues that might presage risky and/or harmful drinking in young adulthood. The study examines evidence from young people themselves (activity diaries and interviews); stakeholder interviews; and observation analysis. The study finds social practices in the two areas to be largely similar; moreover, the collectivised and social nature of alcohol consumption suggests sources of influence from a wider context, beyond immediate family and friendship groups. However these social practices were acted out in locations with very different physical characteristics, in particular these related to the availability of non-alcohol focused leisure activities and the spatial arrangement/visibility of adult drinking culture. âº A unique exploration of differences in youth drinking cultures in northeast and southeast England. âº This study focuses on the lives of 15-16 year olds. âº Research establishes that similar social practices in the two locations are played out against different opportunities and constraints. âº In southeast England there was less exposure to adult alcohol related leisure and more opportunity for non-alcohol related leisure pursuits, than in northeast. âº Study concludes collectivised social aspect of alcohol requires research moves away from individually-focused epidemiological studies.