Background: The vast majority of individuals with alcohol problems in the United States and elsewhere do not seek help. One policy response has been to encourage institutions such as criminal justice and social welfare systems to mandate treatment for individuals with alcohol problems (Addiction, 1997;92:1133). However, informal pressures to drink less from family and friends are far more common than institutional pressures mandating treatment (Addiction, 1996;91:643). The prevalence and correlates of these informal pressures have been minimally studied.
Methods: This analysis used data from 5 Alcohol Research Group National Alcohol Surveys (NAS) collected at approximately 5-year intervals over a 21-year period (1984 to 2005, pooled N = 16,241) to describe the patterns of pressure that drinkers received during the past year from spouse, family, friends, physicians, police, and the workplace.
Results: The overall trend of pressure combining all 6 sources across all 5 NAS data sets indicated a decline. Frequent heavy drinking and alcohol-related harms also declined, and both were strong predictors of receiving pressure. Trends among different sources varied. In multivariate regression models, pressure from friends showed an increase. Pressure from spouse and family showed a relatively flat trajectory, with the exception of a spike in pressure from family in 1990.
Conclusions: The trajectory of decreasing of pressure over time is most likely the result of decreases in heavy drinking and alcohol-related harm. Pressure was generally targeted toward higher risk drinkers, such as heavy drinkers and those reporting alcohol-related harm. However, demographic findings suggest that the social context of drinking might also be a determinant of receiving pressure. Additional studies should identify when pressure is associated with decreased drinking and increased help seeking.