The International development of the 'Social Norms' approach to drug education and prevention

J McAlaney, B Bewick, CJ Hughes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

46 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The social norms approach to health promotion has become remarkably popular in the last 20 years, particularly in the American college system. It is an alternative to traditional fear-based approaches of health education, which a growing body of research demonstrates is often ineffective in reducing alcohol and drug misuse. The social norms approach differs by recognizing that individuals, particularly young adults, tend to overestimate how heavily and frequently their peers consume alcohol, and that these perceptions lead them to drink more heavily themselves than they would otherwise do. Similar misperceptions have been found in a range of other health and non-health behaviours. The social norms approach aims to reduce these misperceptions, and thus personal consumption, through the use of media campaigns and personal feedback. Although the numbers of completed social norms projects outside the USA is small, the evidence from them is that the approach can be equally effective in both European and Australian contexts. It is also acknowledged that as an emergent field, there are limitations to the current social norms literature. There is a lack of randomized control trial studies, a lack of clarity of the role of referent groups and a need to better understand the processes through which misperceptions are transmitted. However, despite these issues, the social norms approach represents a new avenue for reducing alcohol and drug-related harm and is an area which merits further research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-89
Number of pages9
JournalDrugs: Education, Prevention and Policy
Volume18
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Fingerprint

Social Norms
drug
Education
Pharmaceutical Preparations
education
alcohol
Alcohols
lack
Health Promotion
Health Education
Research
health promotion
Fear
young adult
Young Adult
campaign
anxiety
Health
health
evidence

Cite this

@article{d008e8c5b3464b6aad6930ca1f47cd9e,
title = "The International development of the 'Social Norms' approach to drug education and prevention",
abstract = "The social norms approach to health promotion has become remarkably popular in the last 20 years, particularly in the American college system. It is an alternative to traditional fear-based approaches of health education, which a growing body of research demonstrates is often ineffective in reducing alcohol and drug misuse. The social norms approach differs by recognizing that individuals, particularly young adults, tend to overestimate how heavily and frequently their peers consume alcohol, and that these perceptions lead them to drink more heavily themselves than they would otherwise do. Similar misperceptions have been found in a range of other health and non-health behaviours. The social norms approach aims to reduce these misperceptions, and thus personal consumption, through the use of media campaigns and personal feedback. Although the numbers of completed social norms projects outside the USA is small, the evidence from them is that the approach can be equally effective in both European and Australian contexts. It is also acknowledged that as an emergent field, there are limitations to the current social norms literature. There is a lack of randomized control trial studies, a lack of clarity of the role of referent groups and a need to better understand the processes through which misperceptions are transmitted. However, despite these issues, the social norms approach represents a new avenue for reducing alcohol and drug-related harm and is an area which merits further research.",
keywords = "social norms drug education and prevention",
author = "J McAlaney and B Bewick and CJ Hughes",
note = "ISSN 0968-7637",
year = "2010",
doi = "10.3109/09687631003610977",
language = "English",
volume = "18",
pages = "81--89",
journal = "Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy",
issn = "0968-7637",
publisher = "Informa Healthcare USA",
number = "2",

}

The International development of the 'Social Norms' approach to drug education and prevention. / McAlaney, J; Bewick, B; Hughes, CJ.

In: Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy, Vol. 18, No. 2, 2010, p. 81-89.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

TY - JOUR

T1 - The International development of the 'Social Norms' approach to drug education and prevention

AU - McAlaney, J

AU - Bewick, B

AU - Hughes, CJ

N1 - ISSN 0968-7637

PY - 2010

Y1 - 2010

N2 - The social norms approach to health promotion has become remarkably popular in the last 20 years, particularly in the American college system. It is an alternative to traditional fear-based approaches of health education, which a growing body of research demonstrates is often ineffective in reducing alcohol and drug misuse. The social norms approach differs by recognizing that individuals, particularly young adults, tend to overestimate how heavily and frequently their peers consume alcohol, and that these perceptions lead them to drink more heavily themselves than they would otherwise do. Similar misperceptions have been found in a range of other health and non-health behaviours. The social norms approach aims to reduce these misperceptions, and thus personal consumption, through the use of media campaigns and personal feedback. Although the numbers of completed social norms projects outside the USA is small, the evidence from them is that the approach can be equally effective in both European and Australian contexts. It is also acknowledged that as an emergent field, there are limitations to the current social norms literature. There is a lack of randomized control trial studies, a lack of clarity of the role of referent groups and a need to better understand the processes through which misperceptions are transmitted. However, despite these issues, the social norms approach represents a new avenue for reducing alcohol and drug-related harm and is an area which merits further research.

AB - The social norms approach to health promotion has become remarkably popular in the last 20 years, particularly in the American college system. It is an alternative to traditional fear-based approaches of health education, which a growing body of research demonstrates is often ineffective in reducing alcohol and drug misuse. The social norms approach differs by recognizing that individuals, particularly young adults, tend to overestimate how heavily and frequently their peers consume alcohol, and that these perceptions lead them to drink more heavily themselves than they would otherwise do. Similar misperceptions have been found in a range of other health and non-health behaviours. The social norms approach aims to reduce these misperceptions, and thus personal consumption, through the use of media campaigns and personal feedback. Although the numbers of completed social norms projects outside the USA is small, the evidence from them is that the approach can be equally effective in both European and Australian contexts. It is also acknowledged that as an emergent field, there are limitations to the current social norms literature. There is a lack of randomized control trial studies, a lack of clarity of the role of referent groups and a need to better understand the processes through which misperceptions are transmitted. However, despite these issues, the social norms approach represents a new avenue for reducing alcohol and drug-related harm and is an area which merits further research.

KW - social norms drug education and prevention

U2 - 10.3109/09687631003610977

DO - 10.3109/09687631003610977

M3 - Article

VL - 18

SP - 81

EP - 89

JO - Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy

JF - Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy

SN - 0968-7637

IS - 2

ER -