Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I'm BAAAAAAAck. with beer

I did not intend to take a hiatus from blogging. It just sort of happened. Part of it was because of burn out after the election and that I was out of town at a conference.

Okay, I also want to steer clear of the easy stuff...electioneering and politics for a while.

Found this interesting nugget at Science Daily: Bottoms Up: Individualists More Likely To Be Problem Drinkers

In short, the researchers found that those who are more "individualist" compared to "collectivist" are more likely to be problem drinkers. An excerpt:

The researchers found that people with more interdependent mindsets were less likely to over-consume when they were with peers. "The results suggest that people with collectivistic cultural orientations tend to be more motivated to regulate impulsive consumption tendencies than those with individualistic cultural orientations, which in turn makes them less likely to engage in beer or alcohol consumption," the authors conclude.

Now the authors have no direct measure of drinking behavior, just an indication after a "manipulation." So, I am skeptical to generalize much about this, like libertarians are more likely to be problem drinkers than socialists.

But it is interesting that even the manipulation that caught a person's orientation and there was variance does indicate the cultural influence on individual drinking.

I'm working with a local group focused on reducing our county's underage and binge drinking. My county is among the worse in the state for this. We are taking a public health approach, treating underage and binge drinking as a public health problem. I like the approach, it is far less moralistic, and very data driven. So, I am more interested in research on alcohol than I have been in the past. The research reported on by Science Daily evidences the importance of local culture. I am not convinced that being individualistic or collectivist is just a personality is social psychological (being involved in a collective, team, family, etc) is going to effect one's "orientation" as well as particular belief system. What is interesting is that being the individulist is highly prized in our culture. And locally, individualism is highly, highly valued. But then so is church going, which is an emphasis on the collective (American culture is a tension between the "individual" (an ideal) and the reality of high pressure conformism.

So, is American culture a "risk" factor or a "protective" factor when it comes to alcohol consumption? Of course, influencing the broader culture is not really possible.

In our local situation, just raising awareness that the alcohol problem among underage folks is a greater problem here than in most other places, is the goal. After all, if everyone just thinks the local situation is normal, how do you effect change?

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