Social networking and young adults’ drinking practices: innovative qualitative methods for health behavior research

Antonia C. Lyons, Ian Goodwin, Tim McCreanor, Christine Griffin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Objectives: Understandings of health behaviors can be enriched by using innovative qualitative research designs. We illustrate this with a project that used multiple qualitative methods to explore the confluence of young adults’ drinking behaviors and social networking practices in Aotearoa, New Zealand.

Method: Participants were 18–25 year old males and females from diverse ethnic, class, and occupational backgrounds. In Stage 1, 34 friendship focus group discussions were video-recorded with 141 young adults who talked about their drinking and social networking practices. In Stage 2, 23 individual interviews were conducted using screen-capture software and video to record participants showing and discussing their Facebook pages. In Stage 3, a database of Web-based material regarding drinking and alcohol was developed and analyzed.

Results: In friendship group data, young adults co-constructed accounts of drinking practices and networking about drinking via Facebook as intensely social and pleasurable. However, this pleasure was less prominent in individual interviews, where there was greater explication of unpleasant or problematic experiences and practices. The pleasure derived from drinking and social networking practices was also differentiated by ethnicity, gender, and social class. Juxtaposing the Web-based data with participants’ talk about their drinking and social media use showed the deep penetration of online alcohol marketing into young people’s social worlds.

Conclusions: Multiple qualitative methods, generating multimodal datasets, allowed valuable nuanced insights into young adults’ drinking practices and social networking behaviors. This knowledge can usefully inform health policy, health promotion strategies, and targeted health interventions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-302
Number of pages10
JournalHealth Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2015


  • Health behaviours
  • Drinking practices
  • Drinking cultures
  • Social networking
  • Qualitative methods


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