Cultural Values Are Associated With Alcohol Consumption, Researchers Find

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Cultural Values Are Associated With Alcohol Consumption, Researchers Find

In a new study, researchers sought to determine if countries with certain values have heavier drinkers than others. They discovered that yes – some cultural values appear to be related to levels of alcohol consumption.

Moreover, countries that valued autonomy and harmony had greater levels of alcohol use than countries who valued collectivism and social hierarchies. Autonomy implies freedom from external influence, and collectivism implies emphasis on the collective (the whole) rather than individual identity.

The United States, for example, values autonomy, while conversely, Japan values collectivism.

About The Study

Researchers examined data from 74 countries and evaluated whether alcohol use for a given country could be associated with social values. The findings showed that in general, autonomy and harmony were positively correlated with alcohol consumption, and social hierarchy and embeddedness are negatively correlated with alcohol use.

For the record, Wikipedia defines embeddedness as “the degree to which economic activity is constrained by non-economic institutions.”

This research is different from previous studies as it seeks to identify the cultural reasons why people drink alcohol, versus personal reasons.

Dr. Paul Hanel, a co-author, stated the following in a release:

“Researchers could create similar profiles and models to help understand the cultural underpinnings for other risky behaviors such as smoking and drug taking…”

According to the World Health Organization, heavy alcohol use was responsible for more than 3.3 million fatalities in 2012, or 6% of deaths for the year. Also, smoking and inactivity, combined with excessive alcohol consumption, caused 70% of deaths worldwide.

Dr. Richard Inman, co-author, from the same release:

“Our results suggest that bodies like World Health Organization should prioritize tackling alcohol consumption in countries that are more autonomous and less traditional…”

The research was conducted by investigators in the UK and Portugal and published last week in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology


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