IPR Policy Brief - Would you 'like' a drink? Youth drinking cultures, social media and alcohol marketing online

Christine Griffin, Antonia Lyons

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The high level of alcohol consumption amongst young people in countries with more liberal alcohol policies has been a focus of public health concern for some time. Many young adults regularly engage in heavy drinking episodes with groups of friends to ‘have fun’ and ‘be sociable’. More recently, this population has increased their use of new mobile and digital technologies (such as smartphones), and social networking Internet sites (such as Facebook and YouTube). Major alcohol companies are now investing heavily in online alcohol marketing. Up until now the impact of this strategy has been unclear.

This policy brief reports on recent and on-going research about how new technologies are used by young people and alcohol marketers, and their role in shaping young adults’ drinking cultures. A current three-year study has involved interviews with 18 to 25 year olds from different ethnic groups in New Zealand (Aotearoa), and analysis of online representations of drinking, including alcohol marketing. However, the findings are likely to be applicable to other countries with a pervasive culture of heavy drinking amongst young people, including the UK.

The research concludes that online alcohol marketing aimed at young adults is widespread, highly dynamic and takes an ever-expanding range of forms as new digital and mobile technologies develop. Young people tend to view targeted alcohol marketing via social media as useful and informative, seldom recognising it as advertising. However, online alcohol marketing is pervasive across a range of social media platforms, and encourages a ‘culture of intoxication’ or ‘extreme drinking’ amongst young adults.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherUniversity of Bath
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013


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