Youth alcohol consumption is declining across many European counties, often alongside similar decreasing trends in drug use and smoking. One of the explanations as to why we are seeing these patterns is that adolescents do not drink alcohol because they spend more time indoors on the internet.
Researchers in Sweden have conducted a study, published in the European Journal of Mental Health, analysing whether different internet activities are linked with non-drinking in a sample of 7089 Swedish adolescents (15-16 years).
The study examined activity such as total time spent on computers, social media use and computer gaming, as well as changes in alcohol consumption from 2008-2012, and differences between girls and boys.
Results found an increase in the number of young people not drinking and an increase in internet use across all types of activity from 2008-2012.
Further bivariate modelling showed:
- Total computer watching decreased the probability of non-drinking among girls and boys
- Social media decreased the probability of non-drinking among both boys and girls
- Computer gaming increased the likelihood of non-drinking among both boys and girls
These results do not confirm the idea that the decline in alcohol use is linked with total increased use of the internet. However, they do suggest playing computer games is associated with a decrease in drinking. The researchers suggest that the reason the increase in social media use is not linked with a decline in drinking behaviour is that there are more alcohol references and marketing on these sites. These results offer one potential explanation into the current trends we are seeing in Europe.