- Pressure to Drink by Friends Top Factor in One Year No Beer Study -

“Go on, just have the one”, is a comment that nearly 9 in 10 Scottish adults have heard in their social lives. In a pilot study of 521 adults in Scotland commissioned by One Year No Beer (OYNB) in collaboration with Stirling University, more than four in five respondents had experienced this type of emotional blackmail and it’s friends who are to blame.

Both men and women in Scotland identified pressure from friends as the number one influencing factor with one in five feeling bullied into having a drink. Choose to abstain and seven in ten would be asked if there was something wrong to explain why they weren’t drinking. Surprisingly, however, Scotland scored lower than any other region in the UK when questioned about peer pressure in relation to alcohol consumption.

Ruari Fairbairns, co-founder of OYNB, said: “I know from personal experience how difficult it is to say no when you are being badgered into have a drink. And it’s easy to cave in under peer pressure when everyone around you is having a great time getting stuck in.  It’s expected of you to drink; it goes against the grain if you don’t…why is it that it’s the people we call our friends who find it hardest of any of our relationships to accept when we say no? The One Year No Beer community aims to destroy the pressure around going alcohol free, and empowering people to say no, whether it’s with friends on a night out or deciding to quit alcohol for a longer period.”

This was echoed by Suzy Beaumont (43) from Inverness and Founder of Change Your World Events: “I’ve definitely had lots of mixed reactions: usual stuff, telling me to ‘go on, just have a drink’, or a ‘couple won’t hurt me’,” she said, “to the pressure I put on myself by being worried what others will think of me.  Before I started the OYNB challenge I had tried to give up alcohol many times, but didn’t have the confidence to voice it because there was no one else doing it plus, I didn’t feel confident in myself I could do it.  The OYNB group gives me motivation to keep going when I have my weak moments because I want to reach 365 days and say ‘I did it!’”

On a par with the rest of the UK, the biggest concern among Scots in abstaining from alcohol was the fear of appearing boring, however half of respondents (36% more than the national average) said they were worried about being left out if they didn’t drink.  Scottish men felt ten times more vulnerable on the dance floor sober than their English/Irish counterparts.

Overall there was little difference between men and women in Scotland.  Nearly 80% of both sexes reported social events as the top trigger for drinking, 4% up on the national average, but the starkest gender contrast was in the company of friends and at work social events where men felt 10% more pressure than women (63% and 54% respectively).

From the 197 women interviewed, only one in ten had been pressurised by bosses into drinking – half the UK average, however among younger women (aged 26-35) this doubled. It was this demographic that stood out as evidencing the biggest challenges: after bosses, 25% had been coerced by their colleagues into drinking and 50% by their partners. Only family had a negative score in this age group.

It was a similar picture among the male respondents, although pressure from bosses and colleagues impacted more men aged 36-45 and 46+.

On a more positive note, Scottish respondents felt less pressure to drink during holidays (50% compared to 57% in the UK); when the sun was out (33% vs 42%) and two-times less when on their own (14% vs 33%).

OYNB is a toolkit for surviving modern society alcohol free and since being founded in 2014 has recruited over 25,000 members across 120 countries. The programme includes tips for going to weddings, stag weekends, holidays, Friday night in the pub and how to survive them sober. With cutting edge science in habit change, behavioural science and positive psychology the 28, 90 & 365 day challenges help you to re-wire your brain, to realise that you don’t need alcohol to have a good time, to relax, to unwind or to enjoy life.  Using alcohol-free alternatives, and socialising alternatives during your challenge you learn to belong to a tribe that’s living how you want to live.

The Peer Pressure Pilot Survey (August 2018) was conducted by OYNB in collaboration with Stirling University.

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About the Survey

A total of 1,697 adults in the UK and Ireland were polled. They were asked five questions:
Have you ever felt pressure to drink by any of the following (five sources: friends, colleagues, partner, family, boss, no)
2)    on a scale of 0-10 (0=none and 10=lots) how much pressure do you feel from these sources?
3)    Where do you feel the most pressure to drink? (social events, around friends, festive times, work social events, on holiday, sunshine, on your own)
4)    What are your worries when going alcohol free? (being judged by others as ‘being boring’, having to have a conversation to explain your choice, being left out because of your decision, not being able to relax without alcohol, having friends who think you don’t enjoy the same things, drawing attention to yourself for being different, being judged by others as having a ‘problem’ with alcohol, bad sober dancing, feeling vulnerable)
5)    Which of these have you heard? (go on just have one, what’s wrong with you, why are you not drinking? you’re so boring when you don’t drink, not invited because they don’t drink, didn’t realise you had a problem)

Regional Differences (Scotland)

Highlands & Islands

  • Bad sober dancing scored the highest here out of all the Scottish Regions
  • Bosses were 54% less likely to pressure respondents to drink than the Scottish average
  • One in four participants from the Highlands & Islands ranked drinking on their own as the biggest pressure source - 89% higher than the Scottish average

North East Scotland (Aberdeen & Aberdeenshire)

  • Friends are the toughest here - the highest result among all regions for peer pressure by friends

East Scotland (Edinburgh & Lothians, Fife, Tayside, Scottish Borders)

  • Unlike the Scottish average, respondents in the East cited their bosses as the ones who most coerced them into drinking

South West Scotland (Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire, Dumfries & Galloway)

  • In the South West the highest pressure came from partners both in terms of how often this source was mentioned and how high it was ranked
  • Worries when going alcohol free – the biggest difference: one in four heard ‘didn’t realise you had a problem’ (51% higher than average); and two in five ‘you’re so boring’ (26% higher than average)

One Year No Beer’s top tips for coping with peer pressure when giving up alcohol:

1.     Take an alcohol-free challenge: The no1 way to crush the peer pressure is to take a 28, 90 or 365-day challenge. The daily emails, videos, accountability and the best community will inspire you to smash your alcohol-free adventure. When the time comes - say it loud and proud - I am on a {28|90|365-day] alcohol-free challenge and watch the social pressure melt.

2.     Create a new tribe: Turn the social pressure on its head and join thousands of people just like you within the OYNB online and offline community and build positive-peer-pressure to ‘not’ drink!

3.     Learn the skills of change: When prepared you can release the social pressure before it starts. Our top alcohol-free techniques from the worlds of mindfulness and positive psychology combined with our experience will have you ready. For example take out the ringleader before you meet them in the pub. Explain in person all the reasons why you’ve decided to take a break from booze. When you have their support in front of the group, the rest will follow.

4.     Power-up your ‘why’: When you’re fully aligned with all the reasons ‘why’ you don’t want to drink there is no amount of peer pressure that can dissuade you from your chosen healthy path. At OYNB we will show you exactly how to power-up your ‘why’

5.     Know what you’re going to drink and have a backup drink: In high pressure moments when the social heat is on - you need to know exactly what you’re going to drink. If you are not well rehearsed old habits can take over and you end up with a drink. For lots of alcohol-free alternative reviews and ideas check out

6.     You don’t have to drink it just because you or someone else bought it: Alcohol rarely goes to waste and if you find yourself - drink in hand. DON’T PANIC - step away from the alcohol with your hands where we can see them, take a deep breath, smile as you knew this might happen, then order the drink that’s in keeping with your healthy goals and dreams.

7.     Go Stealth: At OYNB we also give you the tips to go stealth. Sometimes the best way to destroy the peer pressure is to make it appear as though you’re drinking when you’re not. Alcohol-free beers and other alternatives look like the real thing, taste like the real thing and convince most people that you’re drinking the real thing. There is no peer pressure when the mob think you’re following the crowd.

8.     Do something different: The ‘drinks’ night is so overdone. Why not switch things up and stack the odds in your favour? Arrange go-karting, spin and steak night or a bootcamp. The list is endless and personal to you but with a little effort you can remove all peer pressure with an alternative event.

9.     Go public: A quick way to smash the social pressure is to let everyone know you’re on an alcohol-free challenge and tell them ‘why’. This saves you explaining yourself every 5 minutes and will rally support once people see ‘why’ it is so important to you.

10.  Be a leader: There will always be people who apply social pressure but often it’s because they’re scared of their own habits. The best thing you can possibly do for yourself and those around you is to be happy, healthy, super fit, vibrant and alcohol-free. Be a leader and those who are pressuring you now will very soon ask you how you did it and if they can take a challenge with you!

Steph MiddletonComment