Negative Drinking Consequences Do Not Alter Readiness to Change Behaviors in Young Adults: Is Peer Pressure King?

Consequences of drinking in general promote very mixed messages. First off, moderate consumption of alcohol (specifically, wine) is often touted as being beneficial to one’s health and is frequently encouraged. Drinking too much, on the other hand, is discouraged

Photo by Flickr user Ben Lesser (
Photo by Flickr user Ben Lesser (

across the board due to potential harm to oneself or others.

How do these behaviors affect one’s “readiness to change” consumption habits? I can certainly relate to when I was in college and how after a night or two of debauchery I swore up and down I would never drink that much again.

A new study, published in the journal Addictive Behaviors, focused on drinking behavior of young adults, and how these behaviors affect their “readiness to change” alcohol consumption habits.

The researchers hit the streets outside of bars and interviewed young adults between the ages of 18 and 26. Participants were asked to fill out questionnaires related to their alcohol consumption, which included questions about their willingness to change habits and personal demographics. Questions about positive and negative consequences were also included.

An example of a positive drinking consequence was: “I told a funny story or joke and made others laugh.”

An example of a negative drinking consequence was: “My drinking has gotten me into sexual situations that I later regretted.

Breath Alcohol Content (BrAC) of participants was also measured.

After 72 hours, a total of 67 participants completed online surveys for the study.

Important Findings:

  • Positive drinking consequences were negatively associated with “readiness to change” behaviors in participants.
  • Females with low BrAC levels had higher “readiness to change” scores when they noted fewer positive drinking consequences.
  • Negative drinking consequences did not always influence “readiness to change” behaviors.
  • Positive drinking consequences were significantly better at predicting “readiness to change” scores compared to negative drinking consequences.

Overall, if a participant had positive experiences related to their

Photo by Flickr user  Cecilia Ortiz (
Photo by Flickr user Cecilia Ortiz (

drinking, they were significantly less likely to change their drinking habits. On the other hand, if a participant had negative experiences related to their drinking, it did not necessarily mean they would change their drinking habits.

In my opinion, these results could indicate that drinking behaviors in young adults, regardless of the consequences, are encouraged among peers, and that peer pressure to “fit in” might be a stronger driver to participant in drinking behaviors than the resulting consequences. More research on this topic is needed.


Usala, J.M., Celio, M.A., Lisman, S.A., Day, A.M., and Spear, L.P. 2015. A field investigation of the effects of drinking consequences on young adults’ readiness to change. Addictive Behaviors 41: 162-168.