Friendship and Alcohol Use Among Young Adults: A Cross-Disciplinary Literature Review

  • Dominic ConroyEmail author
  • Sarah MacLean


Links between young adult friendships and drinking practices have recently emerged as an area of interest from multiple disciplinary perspectives. This can be seen in emergent discussion of alcohol’s role as a catalyst for initiating friendships and developing intimacy within friendships. Using a cross-disciplinary, methodologically plural approach we draw together emergent findings from the diffuse empirical work relevant to this topic area. Research is critically discussed across two broad sub-sections: ‘How do friendships influence young adults’ alcohol use?’ and ‘How does alcohol use shape friendships?’ Future research pathways and research applications are also considered.


  1. Arnett, J. J. (2000). Emerging adulthood: A theory of development from the late teens through the twenties. American Psychologist, 55(5), 469–480.Google Scholar
  2. Badhwar, N. K. (2008). Friendship and commercial societies. Politics, Philosophy & Economics, 7(3), 301–326.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Boman, J. H., Stogner, J., & Miller, B. L. (2013). Binge drinking, marijuana use, and friendships: The relationship between similar and dissimilar usage and friendship quality. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 45(3), 218–226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bot, S. M., Engels, R. E., Knibbe, R. A., & Meeus, W. J. (2005). Friend’s drinking behaviour and adolescent alcohol consumption: The moderating role of friendship characteristics. Addictive Behaviors, 30(5), 929–947.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brain, K., Parker, H., & Carnwath, T. (2000). Drinking with design: Young drinkers as psychoactive consumers. Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy, 7(1), 5–20.Google Scholar
  6. Brodmerkel, S., & Carah, N. (2013). Alcohol brands on Facebook: The challenges of regulating brands on social media. Journal of Public Affairs, 13(3), 272–281.Google Scholar
  7. Brown, R., & Gregg, M. (2012). The pedagogy of regret: Facebook, binge drinking and young women. Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, 26(3), 357–369.Google Scholar
  8. Bryant, E. M., & Marmo, J. (2012). The rules of Facebook friendship: A two-stage examination of interaction rules in close, casual, and acquaintance friendships. Journal of Social & Personal Relationships, 29(8), 1013–1035.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cheadle, J. E., Stevens, M., Williams, D. T., & Goosby, B. J. (2013). The differential contributions of teen drinking homophily to new and existing friendships: An empirical assessment of assortative and proximity selection mechanisms. Social Science Research, 42(5), 1297–1310.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Conroy, D., & de Visser, R. O. (2013). ‘Man up!’: Discursive constructions of non-drinkers among UK undergraduates. Journal of Health Psychology, 18(11), 1432–1444.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Conroy, D., & de Visser, R. O. (2014). Being a non-drinking student: An interpretative phenomenological analysis. Psychology & Health, 29(5), 536–551.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Conroy, D., & de Visser, R. O. (2015). The importance of authenticity for student non-drinkers: An interpretative phenomenological analysis. Journal of Health Psychology, 20(11), 1483–1493.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. de Visser, R. O., Wheeler, Z., Abraham, C., & Smith, J. A. (2013). ‘Drinking is our modern way of bonding’ Young people’s beliefs about interventions to encourage moderate drinking. Psychology & Health, 28(12), 1460–1480.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Emslie, C., Hunt, K., & Lyons, A. (2013). The role of alcohol in forging and maintaining friendships amongst Scottish men in midlife. Health Psychology, 32(1), 33–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Emslie, C., Hunt, K., & Lyons, A. (2015). Transformation and time-out: The role of alcohol in identity construction among Scottish women in early midlife. International Journal of Drug Policy, 26(5), 437–445.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Ferguson, C. J., & Meehan, D. C. (2010). Original article: With friends like these…: Peer delinquency influences across age cohorts on smoking, alcohol and illegal substance use. European Psychiatry, 26, 6–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fjær, E. G. (2012). The day after drinking: Interaction during hangovers among young Norwegian adults. Journal of Youth Studies, 15(8), 995–1010.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fujimoto, K., & Valente, T. W. (2012a). Decomposing the components of friendship and friends’ influence on adolescent drinking and smoking. Journal of Adolescent Health, 51(2), 136–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fujimoto, K., & Valente, T. W. (2012b). Social network influences on adolescent substance use: Disentangling structural equivalence from cohesion. Social Science and Medicine, 74(12), 1952–1960.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Giese, H., Stok, F. M., & Renner, B. (2017). The role of friendship reciprocity in university freshmen’s alcohol consumption. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 9(2), 228–241.Google Scholar
  21. Griffin, C., Bengry-Howell, A., Hackley, C., Mistral, W., & Szmigin, I. (2009). ‘Every time I do it I absolutely annihilate myself’: Loss of (self-)consciousness and loss of memory in young people’s drinking narratives. Sociology, 43(3), 457–476.Google Scholar
  22. Huang, G. C., Soto, D., Fujimoto, K., & Valente, T. W. (2014). The interplay of friendship networks and social networking sites: Longitudinal analysis of selection and influence effects on adolescent smoking and alcohol use. American Journal of Public Health, 104(8), e51–e59.Google Scholar
  23. Huang, G. C., Unger, J. B., Soto, D., Fujimoto, K., Pentz, M. A., Jordan-Marsh, M., & Valente, T. W. (2014). Peer influences: The impact of online and offline friendship networks on adolescent smoking and alcohol use. Journal of Adolescent Health, 54(5), 508–514.Google Scholar
  24. Institute of Alcohol Studies. (2017). How has the cost of alcohol changed over time? Retrieved 5 June 2019
  25. Jacobs, L., Conroy, D., & Parke, A. (2018). Negative experiences of non-drinking college students in Great Britain: An interpretative phenomenological analysis. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 16, 737–750.Google Scholar
  26. Keltner, D., Capps, L., Kring, A. M., Young, R. C., & Heerey (2001). Just teasing: A conceptual analysis and empirical review. Psychological Bulletin, 127(2), 229–248.Google Scholar
  27. Leifman, H., Kühlhorn, E., Allebeck, P., Andreasson, S., & Romelsjø, A. (1995). Abstinence in late adolescence: Antecedents to and covariates of a sober lifestyle and its consequences. Social Science and Medicine, 41(1), 113–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Louis-Jacques, J., Knight, J., Sherrit, L., Van Hook, S., & Harris, S. (2012). Do risky friends matter? Comparing the effect of a primary care alcohol intervention by whether friends drink. Journal of Adolescent Health, 50(2, Suppl.), S13–S14.Google Scholar
  29. MacArthur, G. J., Jacob, N., Pound, P., Hickman, M., & Campbell, R. (2017). Among friends a qualitative exploration of the role of peers in young people’s alcohol use using Bourdieu’s concepts of habitus, field and capital. Sociology of Health & Illness, 39(1), 30–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. MacLean, S. (2016). Alcohol and the constitution of friendship for young adults. Sociology, 50(1), 93–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. MacLean, S., & Callinan, S. (2013). “Fourteen dollars for one beer!” Pre-drinking is associated with high-risk drinking among Victorian young adults. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 37(6), 579–585.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. MacLean, S., Pennay, A., & Room, R. (2018). ‘You’re repulsive’: Limits to acceptable drunken comportment for young adults. The International Journal of Drug Policy, 53, 106–112.Google Scholar
  33. MacLean, S., Savic, M., Pennay, A., Dwyer, R., Stanesby, O., & Wilkinson, C. (2018). Middle-aged same-sex attracted women and the social practice of drinking. Critical Public Health, 1–12.Google Scholar
  34. Mayock, P. (2002). Drug pathways, transitions and decisions: The experiences of young people in an inner-city Dublin community. Contemporary Drug Problems, 29(Spring), 117–156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. McCreanor, T., Barnes, H. M., Gregory, M., Kaiwai, H., & Borell, S. (2005). Consuming identities: Alcohol marketing and the commodification of youth experience. Addiction Research & Theory, 13(6), 579–590.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Measham, F. (2002). “Doing gender”—“Doing drugs”: Conceptualizing the gendering of drugs cultures. Contemporary Drug Problems, 29(2), 335–373.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Measham, F., & Brain, K. (2005). ‘Binge’ drinking, British alcohol policy and the new culture of intoxication. Crime Media Culture, 1(3), 262–283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Niland, P., Lyons, A. C., Goodwin, I., & Hutton, F. (2013). ‘Everyone can loosen up and get a bit of a buzz on’: Young adults, alcohol and friendship practices. International Journal of Drug Policy, 24(6), 530–537.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. O’Connor, P. (1998). Women’s friendships in a post-modern world. In R. G. Adams & G. Allan (Eds.), Placing friendship in context (pp. 117–135). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Overbeek, G., Bot, S. M., Meeus, W. H. J., Sentse, M., Knibbe, R. A., & Engels, R. (2011). Where it’s at! The role of best friends and peer group members in young adults’ alcohol use. Journal of Research on Adolescence (Blackwell Publishing Limited), 21(3), 631–638.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Pahl, R. (2000). On Friendship. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  42. Pennay, A., Livingston, M., & MacLean, S. (2015). Young people are drinking less: It is time to find out why. Drug and Alcohol Review, 34(2), 115–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Peralta, R. (2007). College alcohol use and the embodiment of hegemonic masculinity among European American men. Sex Roles, 56(11/12), 741–756.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Pilkington, H. (2007). In good company: Risk, security and choice in young people’s drug decisions. The Sociological Review, 55(2), 373–392.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Pinson, A. (1985). The institution of friendship and drinking patterns in Iceland. Anthropological Quarterly, 58, 75–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Pulakos, J. (1989). Young adult relationships: Siblings and friends. The Journal of Psychology, 123(3), 237–244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Rawlins, W. K. (1992). Friendship matters: Communication, dialectics, and the life course. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  48. Rawlins, W. K. (2008). The compass of friendship: Narratives, identities, and dialogues. Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  49. Rúdólfsdóttir, A. G., & Morgan, P. (2009). ‘Alcohol is my friend’: Young middle class women discuss their relationship with alcohol. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 19(6), 492–505.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Santesso, D. L., Schmidt, L. A., & Fox, N. A. (2004). Are shyness and sociability still a dangerous combination for substance use? Evidence from a US and Canadian sample. Personality and Individual Differences, 37(1), 5–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Seffrin, P. (2012). Alcohol use among black and white adolescents: Exploring the influence of interracial friendship, the racial composition of peer groups, and communities. The Sociological Quarterly, 53(4), 610–635.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Sieving, R., Perry, C., & Williams, C. (2000). Do friendships change behaviors, or do behaviors change friendships? Examining paths of influence in young adolescents’ alcohol use. Journal of Adolescent Health, 26(1), 27–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Törrönen, J., & Maunu, A. (2007). Light transgression and heavy sociability: Alcohol in young adult Finns’ narratives of a night out. Addiction Research & Theory, 15(4), 365–381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Törrönen, J., & Maunu, A. (2011). Friendship and social emotions in young adult Finns’ drinking diaries. Sociological Research Online, 16(1), 4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Tutenges, S., & Sandberg, S. (2013). Intoxicating stories: The characteristics, contexts and implications of drinking stories among Danish youth. International Journal of Drug Policy, 24(6), 538–544.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyUniversity of East LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.La Trobe UniversityMelbourneAustralia

Personalised recommendations