Kuidas rääkida teismelistele alkoholist? Kommunikatsioonisoovitused Tervise Arengu Instituudile
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How to talk with teenagers about alcohol? Communication recommendations to the National Institute for Health Development Keywords: social marketing, teens, alcohol. The present thesis sets an aim to discuss the question how to talk with teenagers about alcohol, and gives recommendations to the National Institute for Health Development (NIHD) on this issue. Alcohol consumption in Estonian society is a very serious problem – in 2010 9.7 liters of absolute alcohol per person was consumed; although this number has been falling during the recent years (in 2009 it was 10.1 liters and in 2008 it was 12 liters) (Eesti alkoholiturg… 2011), the problem has not yet been solved. This problem emerges already during the teenage-years – 83.8% of 13-year-old boys in Estonia have drunk alcohol at least once in their lifetime and among 13-year-old girls this number is 78.8%. The number is even higher among the 15-year-olds - 93% have drunk alcohol. (Eesti kooliõpilaste… 2007) To make change happen it is rational to concentrate on a target group whose behavior is easier to change and whose change will bring wider impact to the society. In this thesis young people ages from 13 and older are the target group because their drinking motives have not fully developed yet (Kuntsche et al 2005). To make recommendations two research questions were shaped; these questions were also divided into sub-questions. It was important to know on the one hand, what kind of messages has NIHD used for influencing teenagers from 2007 up to the present; what kind of campaigns have been carried out, and what aspects have been emphasized in the communication. On the other hand, it was important to map the teenagers’ own opinions and to see what kind of aspects about alcohol do they discuss, and what is their knowledge about alcohol. To answer these questions multi-party research was carried out. NIHD strategic documents were analyzed and the results were linked with expert interviews carried out 132 with the representatives of NIHD. Also forum posts made by teenagers were analyzed and the teenagers’ knowledge, opinions and discussions were mapped. Both sides of this research were combined together to form recommendations on how to talk with teenagers about alcohol. It was also discussed what kind of messages should be used for 13-year olds and older and what kind of channels are the most effective to use on the topic of alcohol communication. The results indicate that strategic documents do not concentrate on alcohol communication towards teenagers. The exception is “Riiklik alkoholipoliitika” (The National Alcohol Policy) (2009) that makes recommendations about price and sanctions concerning alcohol and teenagers. The information about the harmful effects of alcohol and responsible drinking habits are also mentioned in the policy. Qualitative content analysis of the forum posts shows that different discussions have been initiated in order to ask for advice and exchange experiences. Teenagers’ alcohol consumption is regulated by the (cultural) norms of the adults, where teenagers try to differ from the adults and the “larger” society as much as possible. But also the different role-models that teenagers like to follow are part of the “larger” society. In the youth culture it is characteristic to identify themselves with peers. The social pressure and subjection to it is also one of the characteristics of the youth culture. Alcohol consumption is also strongly related to the school culture, especially to the graduation of the 9th grade. This is the time that teenagers achieve the “right” age for drinking (about 15-16 years). Teenagers also perceive the different risks related to alcohol consumption and communicated by NIHD and the society in general. The risks and hazards are related to the physical effects (death by drinking, the effects of alcohol and medicine together) and the social effects (getting caught by the police or the parents, the humiliation in front of the peers). Teenagers seek different opportunities to minimize these risks and hazards. It is interesting to observe that teenagers plan rationally the forthcoming alcohol consumptions (especially when it is their first time). They plan the amount of the alcohol to be obtained and also the amount to be consumed Different strategies for minimizing the hazards show that not consuming at all is not an option for them. 133 The knowledge that teenagers need concerning the topic of alcohol, but what NIHD has not covered yet, is about the social drinking culture, minimizing the hazards and the other elements connected to the school culture. For example there are different aspects about adult drinking habits mentioned on the alkoinfo.ee webpage, but more detailed explanations about the hidden sides of the drinking habits in the society should be given out for the teenagers to know. The NIHD emphasizes the different hazards that can occur for the teenagers; the forum posts show, however, that teenagers minimize these hazards, although not drinking is not one of their strategies. The elements concerning the school culture should also be communicated because forum posts showed that there is a strong link between the school culture (especially graduating the 9th grade) and drinking alcohol. To sum up the main recommendations on how and through which channels to talk to the teenagers about alcohol are: to group teenagers in addition to age also according to lifestyle; to address social drinking motives and benefits of alcohol; to compose separate messages for boys and for girls; to place a brand in the centre of the campaign to avoid using the patronizing approach; to tell the truth to the teenagers about their peers opinions and attitudes concerning alcohol; to use edutainment to communicate with the teenagers; to use the internet as the main channel and the parents as the additional channel when talking about alcohol.