Understanding young people and alcohol

A recent study has identified the main peer crowds in New Zealand, helping to better understand social risk behaviors, like alcohol use, and engage with groups that are often missed.

Organised by Ben Birks Ang, member of Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD) Provider Collaborative, the Peer Crowd Project study recruited teens and young adults from various South Auckland schools, as well as night clubs in Central Auckland.

Facilitated by US-based Jeff Jordan and his team from Rescue: The Behaviour Change Agency, the study identified peer crowds with similar interests, lifestyles, influencers and habits, shared across geographical areas. They were then grouped into labels like ‘Mainstream’, ‘Hip Hop’, ‘Professional’, ‘Hipster’ and ‘Partier’.

The project helped researchers further understand values and personalities of each peer grouping, helping to better target alcohol-related messaging to those at higher risk.

It was identified that ‘Hip Hop’ and ‘Popular/Partier’ peer crowds were at higher risk of hazardous and harmful drinking.

“This research has helped to better understand peer crowds and their alcohol consumption,” says Healthy Families Manukau, Manurewa-Papakura coach Satali Auvae. “Members of our team were involved in the recruitment process and in research and interviewing. The data gathered will help more targeted messaging.”

“It would be great to use the findings from the study to see further collaboration in the sector,” she adds.  

The study’s findings identified that teens and adults perceive a high prevalence of hazardous drinking in New Zealand and, from those involved in the research, there is little awareness of alcohol treatment services.

It also showed that ethnicity was not enough to identify high risk young people and that alcohol was engrained in Hip Hop social norms.

 “It’s highlighted to me the value of really understanding what matters to people,” says Ben Birks Ang, National Youth Services Advisor, New Zealand Drug Foundation and Odyssey Auckland.

 “We’re not trying to change them, we’re helping them to be better at who they want to be, without alcohol getting in the way.”

PHOTO (Top): Astrid Smith (Community Alcohol and Drug Services), Alex Whitcombe (Healthy Families Manukau, Manurewa-Papakura), Satali Auvae (Healthy Families Manukau, Manurewa-Papakura), Jeff Jordan (Rescue: The Behaviour Change Agency), Ben Birks Ang (Odyssey Auckland), Tyrone Tangata-Makiri (Community Action Youth And Drugs)