Alcohol consumption in sport: The influence of sporting idols, friends and normative drinking practices


Kerry S. O'Brien PhD, Lecturer, Gregory S. Kolt PhD, Professor, Andrew Webber BSc, Lecturer, John A. Hunter PhD, Senior Lecturer. Dr Kerry S. O'Brien, School of Psychological Sciences, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL, UK. Tel: +44 (0) 795 3175 7092; E-mail:


Introduction and Aims. High-profile sportspeople are posited as role models for others. We examine whether university sportspeople and non-sportspeople's perceptions of high-profile sportspeople's (sports stars) and friends perceived drinking behaviours are related to their own drinking behaviours. Further, we examine the importance of drinking with competitors after sports events. Design and Methods. A convenience sample of 1028 participants (58% females, n = 652 sportspeople) from two Australian universities were approached at sporting and university venues. Participants completed a survey booklet containing demographic questions, the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT, alcohol measure), perceived drinking of high-profile sportspeople and friends (social norms), and for sportspeople only, items assessing the importance of drinking with competitors. Bivariate and multivariate analyses were used to assess relationships. Results. Both sporting and non-sporting participants perceived high-profile sportspeople to drink less than themselves and their friends. Small significant bivariate relationships were found between high-profile sportspeople's perceived drinking and self-reported drinking for sportspeople (r = 0.20, P < 0.0005). However, in multivariate regression models the perceived drinking behaviours of high-profile sportspeople were not significant predictors of sportspeople's drinking, and were negatively related to non-sportspeople's drinking. The practice of drinking with competitors after sports and games accounted for an additional 6.1% of the unique variance in AUDIT-scores (P < 0.0005). Discussion and Conclusions. Sports stars are touted as negative role models when it comes to drinking. Contrary to expectations high-profile sportspeople were not perceived to be heavy drinkers and their perceived drinking was not predictive of others drinking. Friends' and normative drinking practices were predictors of drinking.[O'Brien KS, Kolt GS, Webber A, Hunter JA. Alcohol consumption in sport: The influence of sporting idols, friends and normative drinking practices. Drug Alcohol Rev 2010;29;676–683]