How to deal with peer pressure
Learning to spot peer pressure can be a great way to help you manage your drinking and stay on track.
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Peer pressure is something that can affects us all. Recognising when you feel under pressure to drink can help you take steps to address it and keep your drinking within low-risk levels.
Any situation where you feel pressurised to drink, or drink more than you intended, is peer pressure. We often think of peer pressure as being something that mainly affects younger people. But when it comes to drinking, peer pressure can affect us at any age. As we get older, we may just not recognise it as such, as pressure from other people can become more subtle.
Peer pressure may just be a gentle encouragement to have one more, or the feeling that you should say yes to a drink to be polite or join in. The pressures might not always be obvious, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there. In fact, research suggests it’s more subtle forms of pressure that tend to lead people to drink more.1 And, if we’re not aware of them, we might be less likely to address them.
The following scenarios are some commons forms of peer pressure. If you recognise them in advance, you might be in a much better place to tackle it.
Drinking more than you planned to drink can put your health at risk, as you may be more likely to go over the Chief Medical Officers’ low-risk drinking guidelines of no more than 14 units a week. This can significantly increase your risk of a range of health problems, including several cancers.
To keep health risks to a minimum, it’s always safest to stay below 14 units a week spread evenly throughout the week and include several drink-free days.
If you’re looking to stop yourself being drawn into situations where you might drink more than you planned, it can be helpful to think about your drinking patterns and triggers.
If there are certain occasions where you might be talked into a drink when you don’t want to, try and plan ahead for those moments. If it’s a social occasion where you know you’ll be drinking, it can be worth setting yourself a limit before you go. You may want to use a unit and calorie calculator to work out how many drinks to have ahead of time, to keep you within a safe limit for the week.
If you know encouragement from your partner, friend or colleague tends to be your weak spot, try talking to them before the situation arises again. It might mean agreeing on some drink-free days with your partner, or warning friends that you won’t be drinking at your usual meet-up. You may even want to plan a drink-free activity to replace your usual after work drink. If people know beforehand that you’re not planning on drinking – or don’t want to drink that much – they may be less likely to pressurise you.
It’s helpful to plan and know what your limits are. But to combat peer pressure, we also need to stick to our guns in the moment – and this can be the hardest.
Common strategies that work include making excuses for not drinking, such as needing to drive, or ‘nursing’ a drink for a long time.1 It can be difficult, but it’s a good idea to try and speak up.
Drinking and peer pressure is ingrained in UK culture but firmly speaking up and saying ‘no’ to a drink can help stop you being repeatedly put in that situation. If you feel nervous confronting it, you might want to practise some scenarios beforehand and what you might say. There’s no need to be impolite – but it can be more effective if you’re firm and stick to it. The first few times might be the hardest, but people will soon lose interest and move on.
Making positive changes to your drinking and sticking to your intentions can feel very satisfying. Keeping track of all your achievements with the MyDrinkaware app is also a great way to stay motivated and help you meet your goals.
Arming yourself with strategies and tips can help you or a loved one take small steps towards big results.
Last Reviewed: 13th December 2021
Next Review due: 13th December 2024