Busted Halo

In Virtue/Vice, Dr. Christine B. Whelan blogs about news, books, scientific and psychological research and her general musings about virtue and vice in our everyday lives.


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October 7th, 2010

If Your Friends Drink a Lot, You Will, Too


iffriendsdrinktoomuch-flashOne more to add to the series of social network studies out there: If your friends drink a lot, you will, too.

Writes Time.com

After a statistical analysis of social connections and alcohol consumption patterns, the researchers found that, like so many other things, drinking habits can be contagious: if a close connection (friend, relative, coworker) drank heavily-defined as an average of one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men-participants were 50% more likely to drink heavily themselves; if someone connected by two degrees of separation (a friend of a friend) drank heavily, participants were 36% more likely to do so.

We’ve already seen that loneliness, happiness, obesity, self-control, voting habits and more are “contagious.” This most recent study was recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Clearly a group of social scientists are building a career on studying the effects of friends and family on our behavior. And it’s interesting stuff. But the results are the same every time. Is everything contagious? If so, does any of this research matter past what our parents (and numerous Biblical passages) always told us?

Pick your friends wisely. And for a rather basic (kind of silly) primer on how to do this, you need not search farther than eHow. Just don’t be drinkin’ while you’re searching.

The Author : Christine B. Whelan
Dr. Christine B. Whelan is an author, professor and speaker. She and her husband, Peter, and their dictator cats, Chairman Meow and Evita Purron, live in Pittsburgh. Her book "Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women" is available in stores or at the Halo Store.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Dave

    Somebody, specifically the author needs to consult the DSM-IV-TR as to what constitutes a heavy drinker. Surely the author is not educated in the Addiction field. Perhaps they (author) needs to accomplish some REAL field work.

  • Matt

    Two drinks in a day is a “heavy drinker”? And a coworker is in the same social-connection class as a friend or relative?

    It’s not that I’d dispute the notion that who your friends are has a big impact on your behavior (as well as your behavioral tendencies having a HUGE impact on who your friends end up being…anyone who needs a statistician to tell them this hasn’t spent nearly enough time in the real world). But a study done with assumptions and definitions like these doesn’t really tell us much that’s useful, even if the results turned out to be surprising.

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