• By Kevin Mount
  • Posted on Tuesday 22nd May, 2012

Young, impatient – and quite likely drunk

“There are many excuses for why I drink. I drink because alcohol makes me feel better. I drink because my local bartender needs to pay off his creditors. I drink because everyone from Bogart to Bukowski to the entire cast of the Bible drank.” So muses Randy S. Robbins in Modern Drunkard Magazine.So every habitual drinker may want to tell a different story, which makes this magazine version of the erudite drunk’s defense just one of many variations, but researchers have discovered some basic forewarning characteristics among likely young drinkers – those 20 or younger. For example, in the US boys are more likely than girls to binge drink, and whites are more likely to binge drink than kids of other races. [See: US National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings.]But do drinkers drink because they are male or white or because something about their personality or circumstances (which may be associated with demographic factors like gender and race) makes heavy drinking more likely? A recent, preliminary look at information collected from Irish college students is somewhat instructive. Liam Delaney, Colm Harmon, and Patrick Wall, all at University College Dublin, surveyed 4,500 students about their backgrounds, personalities, and drinking habits. As others have before them, they found that peers appear to be stronger influences than parents on whether and how much one on drinks. They also discovered something about the personality of the heavy drinker: alcohol abusers tend to be more impatient than non-abusers: they want to feel good now rather than to focus on long-term consequences of present actions. Heavy drinkers also tend to be less conscientious and more gregarious.Finally, the research team’s findings confirmed that starting drinking at younger ages is associated with later drinking problems. Delaney and his colleagues note that genetic factors that lead to early drinking might also lead to later alcohol abuse. However, they also stress that drinking is a hard habit to break and the older the habit, the more likely it is to lead you down the wrong path. The researchers do not make any suggestions about what their findings might mean for any effort to curb adolescent drinking. They simply plead for another round – of research. • Summary of “Behavioral Economics and Drinking Behavior: Preliminary Results From An Irish College Study” by Liam Delaney, Colm Harmon, and Patrick Wall in Economic Inquiry, 2008, Volume 46, Number 1, pp. 29-36.

Back to Archives