Home > Are changes in binge drinking among European adolescents driven by changes in computer gaming?

Halkjelsvik, Torleif and Brunborg, Geir S and Bye, Elin K (2021) Are changes in binge drinking among European adolescents driven by changes in computer gaming? Drug and Alcohol Review, 40, (5), pp. 808-816. https://doi.org/10.1111/dar.13226.

External website: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/dar.13...

There is currently no good explanation for the decline in adolescent drinking reported for many Western countries in recent years. As modern computer gaming is highly exciting and socially rewarding, it may function as a substitute for adolescent binge drinking. We hypothesized a negative correlation between country-level changes in computer gaming and binge drinking.

We analysed within-country changes based on data from 15-16 year-old pupils (n = 517 794) participating in the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Drugs from 1995 to 2015. Binge drinking in the last 30 days (5+ units on one occasion) was regressed on frequency of computer gaming and three control variables measuring the frequency of engagement in other hobbies, reading books and going out (to a disco, cafe, etc.).

Descriptive data showed no general decline in binge drinking across European countries. In contrast to our prediction, the association between binge drinking and computer gaming was not negative [b = 0.26, one-sided 95% confidence interval (-∞, 0.47), P = 0.98, Bayes Factor = 0.21]. We found the same pattern of result in a secondary analysis on six Nordic countries that have experienced declines in adolescent drinking recent years. In analyses with covariates reflecting engagement in other activities, we only observed statistical evidence for an effect of going out.

A substantial decline in adolescent binge drinking during the years 1995-2015 is only evident in some European countries, and it is likely not caused by increased computer gaming.

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