Alcohol-free boom - why aren't the kids boozing it up any more? With Dr Amy Pennay. Ep. 10

Episode 10 December 28, 2022 00:27:59
Alcohol-free boom - why aren't the kids boozing it up any more? With Dr Amy Pennay. Ep. 10
The Recombobulator Lab
Alcohol-free boom - why aren't the kids boozing it up any more? With Dr Amy Pennay. Ep. 10

Dec 28 2022 | 00:27:59

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Hosted By

Jason Graham-Nye Chris Dominic

Show Notes

This week on the Recombobulator Lab Chris and Jason have brought in Dr Amy Pennay to help answer the question that is puzzling older generations: why aren't the kids boozing it up any more? 

Amy is a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research at La Trobe University. Within CAPR she is the Strategic Lead of the 'Intersections of drinking cultures, health and policy' program.She has done extensive research on youth drinking patterns including the 2021 paper entitled Trends in adolescent drinking across 39 high-income countries: exploring the timing and magnitude of decline

How Dr Amy Pennay started working in alcohol research 

Amy joked that she has always enjoyed a drink and that as a young student the idea of doing studies in a nightclub seemed very appealing. Chris mentions that friend of the show, psychologist Dr Doug Keene said a lot of people in the field of psychology got into that to better understand their own issues. 

Alcohol consumption in Australia 

Australia is a ‘dry’ country, you might be surprised to hear. But ‘dry’ in this context has nothing to do with abstaining from alcohol but rather when most people drink said alcohol. A ‘dry’ country is somewhere where people don’t drink a lot during the week but binge on the weekends. Places like France and Italy would be considered ‘wet’ countries as they drink throughout the week in more measured doses. 

Comparing alcohol consumption in Australia to other parts of the world, Aussies drink less than Americans, but are on par with the British. 

Youth alcohol consumption in Australia 

The current trend in youth alcohol consumption is that young people in all high income countries are drinking less. English speaking countries are noticing the highest decrease while Mediterranean and Eastern European countries are seeing the least change. This trend started around 2003. 

This pattern is particularly noticeable in under age drinking but young adults of drinking age or older are also drinking less. 

Is the reduction in youth alcohol consumption related to government intervention? 

Researchers are struggling to identify policy changes as a driving factor to the change in behaviour. In Australia there have been no significant policy changes to affect behaviour. 

However, education around alcohol has definitely increased and there is a lot more research showing the harms alcohol causes. 

Impact of social media on youth drinking rates 

Jason heard anecdotally that young people are more cautious with alcohol as everything could be recorded and put on social media. Young people are aware that content on social media lives there forever and could affect future job opportunities or affect relationships with friends and family. 

Amy says this comes up a lot in their qualitative research and that it is a potential driver in young people consuming less alcohol. 

However, in other ways social media can encourage young people to go out socialising more as they see other people out and about and may get FOMO. It also helps people keep in touch and make plans very easily. 

Right now identifying social media’s impact on youth alcohol consumption is complicated. 

Furphy

Chris calls Jason up on his use of the word ‘furphy’. For our non-Australian audience, a furphy is a lie. 

An alternative approach to declining youth alcohol consumption 

In Japan the government worried about the declining tax earnings caused by the decline in alcohol consumption amongst youths. Believe it or not the government created a marketing campaign to encourage young people to drink MORE. 

Amy said this news was completely unprecedented and her and her colleagues couldn’t believe it. 

The harmful effects of alcohol 

Research now is revealing that alcohol consumption is a lot more harmful than we originally thought. There are 200 diseases that are causally exacerbated by alcohol. 

However in studies this does not come up as a main reason why young people don’t drink. General health and wellness is the main reason that actually comes up, according to Amy. 

COVID lockdown and youth alcohol consumption. 

Alcohol consumption generally went down during the COVID lockdown. A lot of people drank a lot more during lockdown but young people drank way less, which pulled the average down. 

Alcohol free drinks 

There has been a huge push in alcohol free drinks. Chris, Jason and Amy all agree that they taste pretty good. Availability of these drinks is always increasing and there’s even an alcohol free bar in Melbourne. 

Research on attitudes to non-drinkers 

Research into attitudes to non-drinkers reveals that drinkers in Australia feel threatened by non-drinkers. Drinkers see non-drinkers as a threat to fun, social connection and force them to think about their own drinking. 



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Episode Transcript

Welcome to the recombobulator Lab. With Jason Graham- Nye and Chris Dominic. All right, so this week on the lab we are joined by. Amy Panay Australia's preeminent researcher on alcohol policy. She has a phenomenal background in this space looking at alcohol policy research at Latrobe University. She's started off in criminology, um, and then a PhD in health sciences. And her PhD was looking at social, cultural and economic context of alcohol and party drug use among young people. So, um, we are very, very happy to have you here with us today. So thank you very much. And. Welcome. Thank you. Thank you very much. That was a very nice introduction. Well, thank you. Yeah. We are intrigued about this topic. Sorry, Chris hug, go . Well, no, I, It's just Okay. Before we get into the serious stuff, cuz there's serious stuff, I've just, How often do you hear jokes about the reason why you study alcohol research is because of your initial interest in criminal? Does that come up all the time? Look, you may as well study what you enjoy, and I have always enjoyed a drink. In my younger days, I did used to enjoy going to night clubs, and so collecting data in nightclubs seemed like, seemed like a nice thing to do at the time. That's all I'll say. Brilliant. Brilliant. You'll plead the fifth otherwise, right? ? Yeah. Right. I don't, I don't think you guys can do that. Sorry. We can't play the fifth down here at this time. No. , you don't have any darn fifth Amendment. So our, one of our frequent guests, uh, who is a retired psychologist, often says that many of his colleagues in the psychology often went into psychology to figure themselves out. So , so it all makes sense. All right. Well, listen, we're really curious about so many things. Uh, it's great to have you on today, Amy. We wanted to get started by getting a handle on alcohol consumption trends globally. Australia. But no, I have not looked at the data. I deliberately didn't do the research. Australia appears to be a pretty prolific drinking country, at least from the eyeball test. Is that actually true? How does it compare with other countries, that kind of thing? Look, traditionally Australia has definitely consumed more alcohol per capita than the. Oh. Um, but there are a lot of countries in Europe, um, that drink as much if not more. We have been called in the alcohol field, um, a. Dry country, which actually means we, uh, don't drink as much during the week, but we drink a lot and very heavily on weekends. Mm. Um, whereas a wet culture is something like Italy or, or France or Spain where alcohol is, um, prominent. Throughout the week, but when it's consumed, tends to be consumed in, in less quantities. Okay. So Australia is in the category of party countries is what I'm understanding. That's right. Yeah. But we're not alone. There's a lot of countries in Western Europe that that are up there with us. Uhhuh. Now, without getting too much into the cultural elements of this, Is this something that they borrowed from the uk or, I mean, is, is the UK a similar cultural pattern? That's correct. Yep. Look, we can't, we are descendants from the, the Brits and we drink like the Brits. There are other countries, like the Scandinavian countries that drink similarly to us. Mm-hmm. . Um, but the difference I think between us and the US is, um, there are far more abstains. For example, in the US we don't have a lot of abstain. Right. Mm-hmm. . Okay. And, and frankly, the, uh, the Brits don't know how to grill like you do, so, Okay. Well, with that, how about the, the composition to other countries? Is there, is there any hard comp comparable in terms of Australia, or is there anything that's just completely different? Just so we get our sense of the. The land? No. In terms of, um, per capita consumption, Australia is a fairly on trend with what's happening in the rest of sort of high income countries. Right. Okay. And, and if you start slicing, the dicing data is youth drinking. I've just managed to get two kids through teenage years, so it's top of mind for me. And Chris's was in the same boat, and I definitely had a binge issue as a youngster and watching just the youth drinking culture today in Australia. Particularly an issue in Australia. So what we've, and this is what I've been, um, focusing my research on for the last six, seven years. Youth drinking in high end Kong countries is going down globally, right? So, um, we are seeing quite dramatic decreases probably since about, it started in, in around 2003 and there's just been very, very steady decreases ever since then. And I'm talking about underage drinkers especially, but also young. Got it. And we see that mostly, um, in high income countries, uh, mostly English, um, speaking countries or western European countries. So not so much in the Eastern European and the, um, Mediterranean countries. Right. And this isn't in any way related, if you think about the drivers of that trend, if you think about. Cultural, social issues that governments have stepped in with public service announcements, maybe about smoking or other things. I just read somewhere where this is one of the greatest trends downward in something that hasn't had any psa, anything. It just sort of happened. Is that true or has this been a conservative effort by com countries to help? It's really hard to evaluate something like that. Um, We have seen more education prevention, you know, scientific knowledge on the harms of alcohol and its effect on young people. We can't discount that as a cumulative effect that's coming from the media and the parents and schools and politicians. Mm-hmm. . However, there hasn't been a significant change in the policies that we know work to reduce alcohol consumption over that time. So there hasn't been a decrease in availability or accessibility or price. And these are the things we know that work. . Um, and so we've been, we've, we've, we've struggled to identify policy as a driving factor for this. Okay. Well, is there anything, This is anecdotal around the social media on a phone, so the iPhone gets launched in 2004 or something. I just read somewhere where teenagers are so worried about how they might be portrayed in social media that if they get Absolutely. There's a risk to the reputation that that might get put out. Is that complete a fury? Is that, is that one of those in Indians of different elements? Look, it does come up in the qualitative data as a reason that young people, not necessarily don't drink, but might moderate their drinking or be more, much more careful when they're drinking. So the social media aspect of this is really complex because there are many elements of social media that might. Alcohol consumption. You can meet up with people more easily. You can, you know, post your nights out and celebrate, you know. Uh, the fact that you're out and having a good time, and that creates fomo and other people want to come out with you. But then there are the issues about I don't want my future employer to see, um, or my family to see a photo of me doing this, or it's embarrassing. Do so the, there are lots of ways that social media, I think increases alcohol consumption, but also, um, decreases it. So it's really complex. That's interesting. Jason did Jason, did you say Fury? Afer. What what we're gonna have, we're gonna have an episode, Onfi now, um, Amy, as a PhD, you're gonna have to translate for the American as as a PhD. Amy, could you define Fifi ? It's a lie, right? Look, it's not something that I, a word that I use a lot. So I might leave up to you. No, see she's like, It's all on you Jason. You don't, you can't put this on me. I use it. I remember using it with, uh, the, the board of our company, they're Americans. I remember saying in a board meeting, that's an absolute furie and you could just hear a pin drop and it's like, what's this strange man saying? It's a lie And a furie. It's funny cuz there's a beer brand called Fury Ale that's just come out. And it's, I think from Island and Afer is a lie. And after this episode I will look it up, but it's a very cool little, Okay. Anyway, Okay, There you go. All right. See, it's a cultural element. Okay. All right. So I, Okay, so I'm gonna just deviate from something really quickly because the other day I sent this to Jason, Amy, it was an article on how in Japan, The government is noticing that they're losing tons of tax revenue because the younger people don't drink. So they've actually put together like a, I don't know, we shouldn't call it a psa, but like some sort of marketing efforts to like get the kids back to drinking. Uh, I'm, I'm, You're nodding. I'm presuming you're familiar with this. What's going on there? This is completely unprecedented. We could not believe it when we saw this. I mean, there's a bunch of us that were sending it to each other on Twitter saying what is happening? Um, yeah, I'm not sure. I mean, that is completely the opposite of every sort of, um, you know, duty of the government. Mm-hmm. Um, right, because now you're saying that the tax revenues more important than people's health and all the. I mean, that's a little weird. I mean, alcohol harms are gonna cost the country money, so that just seems completely crazy. Yeah, that's a fair point, right? I, Cause one of the things that seems to keep coming up that I've been wondering if it's a causal thing with younger people is more recent studies seem to suggest that alcohol has overall more harmful health effects. Then people used to believe that it had, and I think because of that, but I, what I don't know is if younger people are reading any of that stuff. I mean, that just doesn't, it doesn't seem like that's what it would be. But it, I, I, First of all, would you conclude that the majority of the most recent research suggests that some of the benefits we thought about, uh, we had to alcohol or. Maybe not, not as strong. Yes. Um, I think over 200 disease conditions are causally, um, exacerbated by alcohol, including many cancers. Mm-hmm. will increase your chance of getting a lot of, many of the cancers Right. Um, I, when we talk to young people, that doesn't seem to be part of the reason they're not drinking general health and wellness. Uh, in terms of they're worried generally about, um, you know, eating better and exercising and in a way that I don't think previous generations were. Um, but they don't talk about the cancers and the, you know, the long term health problems as, as one of the reasons they're not drinking. But if you are, uh, have a healthier lifestyle, it's probably likely that, yeah, the booze isn't. Right. Yeah. They are generally worried about health. They're general, young people are generally worried about a lot of things, which is one of the reasons I think they're not drinking as much. Can I ask just on that, you did really interesting recent research on the effects of covid and homeschooling on alcohol consumption, home schooling's not, you know what I mean? Like that period when, what were the big outcomes there? So we know during covid that generally alcohol consumption went down, but it only went down. Certain groups and that pulled it down. Oh. So young people drank way less because they pretend they, they like to socialize when they drink. Mm-hmm. . Whereas people who were in challenging situations where they had to work and, um, teach their children or, or manage their children while they were trying to work and, and continue their education and cook the dinner and not be able to go outside their drinking increase. Yes. And, and yes. Uh, can you take that longitudinal study forward and look, say do it? Is that kind of an idea for you to do that research? Been two to three or five years to see? A theme or is that sort of research completed? Yeah, look, those covid studies are mostly over. I think, um, there are longitudinal studies that exist at the national level that we'll be able to capture that. Right. Uh, and they're much better studies. We did a, you know, covid setting, let's get a convenience sample, follow them up for, for 12 months. Whereas there are already longitudinal studies, um, in the population that will be able to measure those. That's fascinating. Okay. All right, so I have some alcohol free tequila in my bar now. I know. Thanks a lot. Thanks a lot for shaming me right away. Now, admittedly, I didn't buy it, but I gotta admit, I thought it was kind of intriguing. I made a drink with it and it was pretty good, you know, and I've had some alcohol free, uh, beers recently that are way better than the ones that they used. And I, I guess I'm just wondering, trend-wise, it does appear that there is a lot of alcohol free. Stuff going out into the marketplace. Jason, I seem to remember you telling me that there's an entire bar in Australia that is an alcohol free bar. We got to this topic and wanted to meet you, Amy, because I kept looking at all of these non-alcoholic beers and then this alcohol free bar and the alcohol free gin. I'm thinking this is extraordinary non the pitu advocate, you know? The fake news. I the other day said, you know, man spotted buying $60 bottle of alcohol fridge in, doesn't realize there's a product category called Cordial. Um, but it just, it's such a fascinating, I find it so interesting. Is this a huge social shift? Is this, is this an ongoing thing or what's going on here? , it's, it is really fascinating for us as well, and I know that there's a UK study that's just received 2.2 million. To, um, unpack the, uh, effects of No. And low drinks. Yeah. On um, on harm and purchasing and, you know, gateway and cuz there's so many things going on here. Yeah. They are produced by the alcohol industry. Yeah. And they are a very clever, uh, way to make money in a, in an environment where drinking is generally going down. So, um, there are, there are issues here, especially like if you think about the vaping situation. Oh, that's right. Cigarettes. Oh yeah. So there is, and there are some people that trying to, you know, have alcohol problems and, and say that the no and low drinks actually got them started drinking again. So there's, it's a really messy space. Um, in some ways I think it's an excellent harm reduction practice if young people think now go to a bar. And those people that used to not really feel like drinking can have a, an alcohol free. Um, because they don't want to just drink Cordal. Mm-hmm. soft drink. Um, and then, you know, whereas previously they might have just ordered a drink to fit in or, you know, and, and they definitely have a place in the market, a really useful place, but it's really complicated. That's so interesting. It's funny, back in the day, remember there was a drink called Clayton's. Clayton's was a non-alcoholic brand of something, but it was a majority of, when you talked about someone as a Clayton's friend, They weren't a real friend. Oh, it was something in Sydney. Years and years. Years ago. Oh, it's kind of a cruel, isn't it? Like he's a bit of a Clayton's mate and it's like, Ooh. But it seems, it's amazing watching the trend shift. And I think those insights, Amy, is so, Cause I've always was looking at vaping the other day, and these complex laws, I'm not sure if it's Australia wide or just New South Wales, which they're technically banned, but they're just throughout all the schools. Like it's, you go to bathrooms and it's just reeks. And then the question is, Yeah. Is. Gateway who owns them all? Cause there's some cool hip little brands that are independent. Like Heaps normal is a beer brand. I'm not sure if they've been bought yet, but you can see if you're a big alcohol company, like we've gotta get in on that cuz there's some growth there. Um, no, that's really, really interesting. Wow. Yep, yep. The other thing you mentioned about the Claytons is, um, we've done research with, um, attitudes to non-drinkers and people are in Australia because we're such a. A normalized alcohol culture, um, really do find non-drinkers threatening in a social environment. Um, so they, they particularly think they're a threat to fun. They're a threat to social connection. Like, I can't connect with someone at, at a party who's not drinking. That's amazing. Um, but they're also threat to fun , but to fun . But yeah, they, they, they won't, they won't be as fun the party. It's fun if there's non-drinkers there. I won't have fun in this conversation if a non-drinker standing with me and threat to self, which means, um, they make me think about my own alcohol consumption in an uncomfortable way. Um, so these non non alcohol drinks might help with that situation. That, that you invited Bruce. Funny, but so when I moved to the States and lived there for 10 years, I was very much aware that I had come from a binge cultured drinking thing. And I think Chris might have pulled me up and. You might have a problem, mate. And in my later years when I've started to get headaches and drink, I would hold onto one beer and hold it for the whole party for the very reasons you've just said, Amy, I did not wanna look like I'm judging you, but I'm not drinking this. And it was just, it's such a game you play. It's like, okay, how am I gonna fit in and not get hammered? I remember when I was younger, reading an article in Esquire magazine that had basically an ode to drinking one drink at a party. Oh, . And it was the same argument. It was, You won't look like a boar. You can basically nurse the thing for hours and you, you know, basically can live a normal life. You won't have to like pay for it the next day. But that was years ago. And I'll, you know, just thinking about people who are middle aged and I, I, I'm presuming that culturally we were fairly similar back in the eighties and that kind of thing when we were coming into, uh, drinking age. Because actually the Gen Xers were pretty, a pretty big party generation. Um, at least from my experience, it was, we were interested in being adults as soon as we possibly could. Um, we weren't gonna be staying with mom and dad any longer than we had to. And it seems like a lot of that is completely shifted, right? There's people who don't drive as quickly. There's people who stay with their parents longer. There's people who, um, who. In great shape all the time, even regardless of whether they're into sports or not. Mm-hmm. , um, that was something that kind of happened as you got older and you had to start exercise. . Yeah, . I mean, that was like, it's just, there's a, there's a bunch of that that's changed and maybe for the better, uh, if, but it is interesting that you could get. All right. Let's just get back to this. This question of the whole bar is the, maybe the whole idea behind the non-alcoholic bar is if everybody there is not drinking, then you're not boring anymore. Mm-hmm. , right? Everybody's into the same thing maybe. And except for the poor guy who drinks who comes in there. Yeah. Um, and he's sad , but. Well, I have to tell you because I have been to this bar that they do sell G, right? . And you know that, Ken, I wonder how you know that. No, we did go there on a work evening because we wanted to check it out. No, none of us ordered the gym. Right. But they had this Oh, okay. They had this huge range of alcoholic drink, alcohol-free drinks, and then, but if you want, you can have too. Right. Which is that in Melbourne or Sydney? It's in Brunswick. In Brunswick, right? Yeah, in Melbourne. So, so, so is there, does the record needle sort of rip across the, the record when somebody orders the gym? I mean, I, I wonder, I wonder how much. I wonder how much of a cultural It's funny. Violation. I was very disappointed actually. really? They couldn't go the full way. Right. And have no, Right, right, right. Oh, that's funny. So, okay, so were the drinks good? Yeah, they were great and it was nice to have a range of them. They had great, um, cocktails, alcohol free cocktails and those sorts of things. It's interesting because then you get into a place of like really thinking about the flavor, like the experience of the drinking as oppos. The destination, which is, I'm gonna get Hammer, which I always think in Australia was, it was just a destination event. It's like how quickly, And you watch teenagers with goon bags, Like, you know, we've had to host some teenage parties and think, God, we've just gotten through that. But it's like, oh my God, this is just a, this is a sport to get as hammered as quickly and as cheaply as possible. And as an adult looking back, you're like, Oh my God, , I think, I think that's the part that you forget about with age is you know, you've, if you've developed an alcohol pallet and you actually appreci. Beer, wine, spirits, cocktails, that sort of thing, and you're, you're actually into the process of enjoying those things when you see your kids, which my kids are very similar ages to, to Jason's, In my case, both of one's out of college now and one's still in college. And you can see a year to year, they, they go from like white cloth to beer. To better beer, to somebody starts shrinking wine. Yeah. I mean, they get further and further away from, let me just shoot alcohol into my vein, . Um, and, and I so it, it's interesting because I think if you're, if you're at a place where you're thinking, Well, I'm, I'm actually trying to, you know, work down on the booze, but if I'm gonna have booze, it better be good booze. I don't know, I don't know how that relates to that group. And maybe that's just an age difference and who know. I think young people more generally are more interested in dining and good quality, um, cafe experiences. So I think it does fit. I think there has been a shift in that regard. Um, Uh, they, they, they have less money. It's a more precarious economic Oh right. Environment. And so they save, they, a lot of them in, in the qualitative data are saying, Look, we save, instead of blowing it on alcohol, which is really expensive, um, in Australia, I'm gonna save it for one fine dining experience or one, um, you know, nice, healthy experience. And so I think they are a bit more, Yeah, the taste quality is important. That's interesting. Oh, that's fascinat. Um, that, that really is amazing. That's cool. We, uh, getting to the end of our time, but there is a question we ask every guest, and that is the one myth you hear regularly about alcohol consumption that you'd love to debunk. Is there something that the media always says over and over again and you just sit there as a researcher going, That's bloody wrong, not like that. Yes. Well, with the young, the main thing that comes up when they hear that alcohol consumption is going down is, Oh, well that's because they're all using drugs. Oh, . Which isn't the case, , it is absolutely not the case. Um, drug use is going down for young people across the board. It's, it's, it's promising, right? Don't, you can't then say that something else is going up badly. Is are we all looking better now or no, no. Yeah. You know what, that sounds like, That sounds like you're, you're a loser friend who really hates the fact that somebody else is living a healthier life than them. So they have to, they have to crap all over the entire group of young people and say that it's cuz they're all on. They're all on the drugs. I guess one thing that's worth pointing out, um, is that young people seem to be more worried about the future, um, both in terms of their own economic and social security, but in terms of like global issues and climate crises and housing affordability, um, and social justice issues. Um, they do mental health problems seem to be getting worse. Um, they are spending more time. on their phones and their computers rather than being out with people. Right. Um, and so I think, I, I think it's, it's dangerous to alcohol consumption going down is part of a broader. Broader changes in the way young people are kind of doing, being young. Right. And I think there are some concerns there as, as well as some, some positives. Got it. That's good. Oh, okay. So we should probably explore that just to tad because I think the general, most of the literature I've come across researching for this episode is, Isn't it interesting cuz it's so different, isn't it? Is it a sign of a healthier young group? I have not seen too much. That doesn't mean you haven't, uh, that suggests well this entire group of people is anxious and depressed and so they're not going out and partying with people cuz they're not going out at all. I mean it's, that's too much clearly. But is there something to that though? I really think there is. I think as public health researchers, we have to be really careful. Saying. Alcohol consumption going down is a, is a bad thing. I think we have to be really careful with our messaging there. Um, but I think if you looked in different literature, um, focused on youth putting the alcohol aside mm-hmm. um, I think you might find a different picture about we should be worried about these increasing rates of mental health problems. And, um, especially, I'm not sure of the language cuz I'm not a psychologist, but it's the internal. Um, as opposed to the external internalizing seems to be, yeah, seems to be an issue for young people and they're, they're much less happy. So I think if you're looking in a different literature, you might find different answers. And would you say that's interesting trend was there, and then Covid was like an accelerant. It wasn't, it wasn't, Everyone was happy, happy happy. C oh my gosh, we not happy anymore. Like, is that true Covid? One more thing. I, I'm really not sure about that. This isn't my field, but I, I feel like some people, Covid was good for some it was bad. Mm-hmm. , I think the problem it did was, um, exemplify the, um, insecurities about what's happening with, um, you know, global kind of justice issues. There seems to be big swings to the left mm-hmm. And the right, um, creating more division. But that's not, again, that's not my. That's great. Gotcha. Can I ask one geeky academic question In, in your work, do you use a theory? Have you worked with a thing called Social practice Theory? Yes, I have. Yep. . Got it. And it's at one of the theoretical lenses through which you've looked at stuff. Yeah. Social practice theory is really wonderful. Um, social practice theory is particularly useful for understanding how, um, practices shift in a group, uh, over time and how they become normal or normalized. And I think that's, A big change in, in young people's alcohol use because, um, it's not as cool anymore. And so there's been some practice based shifts that have happened so gradually, um, that like it's cultural cache. Yeah, it's really shifted. Uh, good situations. Young people talk about being able to go to parties and it's really normal now. To be a non drinker. Yeah. Whereas previously that wasn't the, That's so fascinating. Thank you. I mean, well you, that, that made you a barrier to find Yeah. I love, That's such great, such great language and still, and, and still in, in, in middle aged people. That still keeps coming up barrier to fun because women, ah. I mean, you invited Bruce. He's the barrier to fun. women my age are still drinking as much, if not more, is that, um, so the Gen X women, uh, the Gen X and the baby boomer women, we we're really pulling the, that's, that's all of the big, the big booze companies. Love you. Yeah. Yeah. Well, what I, is there is, you know, we didn't even ask that question. Is there a demographic difference be, um, between men and women in that area or. Any of the other, We were just going young and old, but there's probably something else in. I mean, generally men drink more than women in all demographic groups. Um, the only difference is men's consumption in the Gen X and baby boomers isn't increasing, whereas the women's is. Gosh, that's so fascinating. Interesting. Wow. Okay. That's amazing. Thank you. That was such a great conversation. Thank you, Amy. Have you got any other questions? Chris? We've kind of, we've, we've, we've peppered you with lots of questions I think. Yes. That was awesome. Thank you. Uh, thank you very much for joining us, Dr. Amy Kenny. Thank you. Thank you for having me. Thank you for joining us at the Bobul Later Lab with Chris Dominic and Jason Graham. How's you next time? Welcome to the Comb Lab. With Jason Graham. And Chris Dominic. All right, so this week on the lab we are joined by. Amy Panay Australia's preeminent researcher on alcohol policy. She has a phenomenal background in this space looking at alcohol policy research at Latrobe University. She's started off in criminology, um, and then a PhD in health sciences. And her PhD was looking at social, cultural and economic context of alcohol and party drug use among young people. So, um, we are very, very happy to have you here with us today. So thank you very much. And. Welcome. Thank you. Thank you very much. That was a very nice introduction. Well, thank you. Yeah. We are intrigued about this topic. Sorry, Chris hug, go . Well, no, I, It's just Okay. Before we get into the serious stuff, cuz there's serious stuff, I've just, How often do you hear jokes about the reason why you study alcohol research is because of your initial interest in criminal? Does that come up all the time? Look, you may as well study what you enjoy, and I have always enjoyed a drink. In my younger days, I did used to enjoy going to night clubs, and so collecting data in nightclubs seemed like, seemed like a nice thing to do at the time. That's all I'll say. Brilliant. Brilliant. You'll plead the fifth otherwise, right? ? Yeah. Right. I don't, I don't think you guys can do that. Sorry. We can't play the fifth down here at this time. No. , you don't have any darn fifth Amendment. So our, one of our frequent guests, uh, who is a retired psychologist, often says that many of his colleagues in the psychology often went into psychology to figure themselves out. So , so it all makes sense. All right. Well, listen, we're really curious about so many things. Uh, it's great to have you on today, Amy. We wanted to get started by getting a handle on alcohol consumption trends globally. Australia. But no, I have not looked at the data. I deliberately didn't do the research. Australia appears to be a pretty prolific drinking country, at least from the eyeball test. Is that actually true? How does it compare with other countries, that kind of thing? Look, traditionally Australia has definitely consumed more alcohol per capita than the. Oh. Um, but there are a lot of countries in Europe, um, that drink as much if not more. We have been called in the alcohol field, um, a. Dry country, which actually means we, uh, don't drink as much during the week, but we drink a lot and very heavily on weekends. Mm. Um, whereas a wet culture is something like Italy or, or France or Spain where alcohol is, um, prominent. Throughout the week, but when it's consumed, tends to be consumed in, in less quantities. Okay. So Australia is in the category of party countries is what I'm understanding. That's right. Yeah. But we're not alone. There's a lot of countries in Western Europe that that are up there with us. Uhhuh. Now, without getting too much into the cultural elements of this, Is this something that they borrowed from the uk or, I mean, is, is the UK a similar cultural pattern? That's correct. Yep. Look, we can't, we are descendants from the, the Brits and we drink like the Brits. There are other countries, like the Scandinavian countries that drink similarly to us. Mm-hmm. . Um, but the difference I think between us and the US is, um, there are far more abstains. For example, in the US we don't have a lot of abstain. Right. Mm-hmm. . Okay. And, and frankly, the, uh, the Brits don't know how to grill like you do, so, Okay. Well, with that, how about the, the composition to other countries? Is there, is there any hard comp comparable in terms of Australia, or is there anything that's just completely different? Just so we get our sense of the. The land? No. In terms of, um, per capita consumption, Australia is a fairly on trend with what's happening in the rest of sort of high income countries. Right. Okay. And, and if you start slicing, the dicing data is youth drinking. I've just managed to get two kids through teenage years, so it's top of mind for me. And Chris's was in the same boat, and I definitely had a binge issue as a youngster and watching just the youth drinking culture today in Australia. Particularly an issue in Australia. So what we've, and this is what I've been, um, focusing my research on for the last six, seven years. Youth drinking in high end Kong countries is going down globally, right? So, um, we are seeing quite dramatic decreases probably since about, it started in, in around 2003 and there's just been very, very steady decreases ever since then. And I'm talking about underage drinkers especially, but also young. Got it. And we see that mostly, um, in high income countries, uh, mostly English, um, speaking countries or western European countries. So not so much in the Eastern European and the, um, Mediterranean countries. Right. And this isn't in any way related, if you think about the drivers of that trend, if you think about. Cultural, social issues that governments have stepped in with public service announcements, maybe about smoking or other things. I just read somewhere where this is one of the greatest trends downward in something that hasn't had any psa, anything. It just sort of happened. Is that true or has this been a conservative effort by com countries to help? It's really hard to evaluate something like that. Um, We have seen more education prevention, you know, scientific knowledge on the harms of alcohol and its effect on young people. We can't discount that as a cumulative effect that's coming from the media and the parents and schools and politicians. Mm-hmm. . However, there hasn't been a significant change in the policies that we know work to reduce alcohol consumption over that time. So there hasn't been a decrease in availability or accessibility or price. And these are the things we know that work. . Um, and so we've been, we've, we've, we've struggled to identify policy as a driving factor for this. Okay. Well, is there anything, This is anecdotal around the social media on a phone, so the iPhone gets launched in 2004 or something. I just read somewhere where teenagers are so worried about how they might be portrayed in social media that if they get Absolutely. There's a risk to the reputation that that might get put out. Is that complete a fury? Is that, is that one of those in Indians of different elements? Look, it does come up in the qualitative data as a reason that young people, not necessarily don't drink, but might moderate their drinking or be more, much more careful when they're drinking. So the social media aspect of this is really complex because there are many elements of social media that might. Alcohol consumption. You can meet up with people more easily. You can, you know, post your nights out and celebrate, you know. Uh, the fact that you're out and having a good time, and that creates fomo and other people want to come out with you. But then there are the issues about I don't want my future employer to see, um, or my family to see a photo of me doing this, or it's embarrassing. Do so the, there are lots of ways that social media, I think increases alcohol consumption, but also, um, decreases it. So it's really complex. That's interesting. Jason did Jason, did you say Fury? Afer. What what we're gonna have, we're gonna have an episode, Onfi now, um, Amy, as a PhD, you're gonna have to translate for the American as as a PhD. Amy, could you define Fifi ? It's a lie, right? Look, it's not something that I, a word that I use a lot. So I might leave up to you. No, see she's like, It's all on you Jason. You don't, you can't put this on me. I use it. I remember using it with, uh, the, the board of our company, they're Americans. I remember saying in a board meeting, that's an absolute furie and you could just hear a pin drop and it's like, what's this strange man saying? It's a lie And a furie. It's funny cuz there's a beer brand called Fury Ale that's just come out. And it's, I think from Island and Afer is a lie. And after this episode I will look it up, but it's a very cool little, Okay. Anyway, Okay, There you go. All right. See, it's a cultural element. Okay. All right. So I, Okay, so I'm gonna just deviate from something really quickly because the other day I sent this to Jason, Amy, it was an article on how in Japan, The government is noticing that they're losing tons of tax revenue because the younger people don't drink. So they've actually put together like a, I don't know, we shouldn't call it a psa, but like some sort of marketing efforts to like get the kids back to drinking. Uh, I'm, I'm, You're nodding. I'm presuming you're familiar with this. What's going on there? This is completely unprecedented. We could not believe it when we saw this. I mean, there's a bunch of us that were sending it to each other on Twitter saying what is happening? Um, yeah, I'm not sure. I mean, that is completely the opposite of every sort of, um, you know, duty of the government. Mm-hmm. Um, right, because now you're saying that the tax revenues more important than people's health and all the. I mean, that's a little weird. I mean, alcohol harms are gonna cost the country money, so that just seems completely crazy. Yeah, that's a fair point, right? I, Cause one of the things that seems to keep coming up that I've been wondering if it's a causal thing with younger people is more recent studies seem to suggest that alcohol has overall more harmful health effects. Then people used to believe that it had, and I think because of that, but I, what I don't know is if younger people are reading any of that stuff. I mean, that just doesn't, it doesn't seem like that's what it would be. But it, I, I, First of all, would you conclude that the majority of the most recent research suggests that some of the benefits we thought about, uh, we had to alcohol or. Maybe not, not as strong. Yes. Um, I think over 200 disease conditions are causally, um, exacerbated by alcohol, including many cancers. Mm-hmm. will increase your chance of getting a lot of, many of the cancers Right. Um, I, when we talk to young people, that doesn't seem to be part of the reason they're not drinking general health and wellness. Uh, in terms of they're worried generally about, um, you know, eating better and exercising and in a way that I don't think previous generations were. Um, but they don't talk about the cancers and the, you know, the long term health problems as, as one of the reasons they're not drinking. But if you are, uh, have a healthier lifestyle, it's probably likely that, yeah, the booze isn't. Right. Yeah. They are generally worried about health. They're general, young people are generally worried about a lot of things, which is one of the reasons I think they're not drinking as much. Can I ask just on that, you did really interesting recent research on the effects of covid and homeschooling on alcohol consumption, home schooling's not, you know what I mean? Like that period when, what were the big outcomes there? So we know during covid that generally alcohol consumption went down, but it only went down. Certain groups and that pulled it down. Oh. So young people drank way less because they pretend they, they like to socialize when they drink. Mm-hmm. . Whereas people who were in challenging situations where they had to work and, um, teach their children or, or manage their children while they were trying to work and, and continue their education and cook the dinner and not be able to go outside their drinking increase. Yes. And, and yes. Uh, can you take that longitudinal study forward and look, say do it? Is that kind of an idea for you to do that research? Been two to three or five years to see? A theme or is that sort of research completed? Yeah, look, those covid studies are mostly over. I think, um, there are longitudinal studies that exist at the national level that we'll be able to capture that. Right. Uh, and they're much better studies. We did a, you know, covid setting, let's get a convenience sample, follow them up for, for 12 months. Whereas there are already longitudinal studies, um, in the population that will be able to measure those. That's fascinating. Okay. All right, so I have some alcohol free tequila in my bar now. I know. Thanks a lot. Thanks a lot for shaming me right away. Now, admittedly, I didn't buy it, but I gotta admit, I thought it was kind of intriguing. I made a drink with it and it was pretty good, you know, and I've had some alcohol free, uh, beers recently that are way better than the ones that they used. And I, I guess I'm just wondering, trend-wise, it does appear that there is a lot of alcohol free. Stuff going out into the marketplace. Jason, I seem to remember you telling me that there's an entire bar in Australia that is an alcohol free bar. We got to this topic and wanted to meet you, Amy, because I kept looking at all of these non-alcoholic beers and then this alcohol free bar and the alcohol free gin. I'm thinking this is extraordinary non the pitu advocate, you know? The fake news. I the other day said, you know, man spotted buying $60 bottle of alcohol fridge in, doesn't realize there's a product category called Cordial. Um, but it just, it's such a fascinating, I find it so interesting. Is this a huge social shift? Is this, is this an ongoing thing or what's going on here? , it's, it is really fascinating for us as well, and I know that there's a UK study that's just received 2.2 million. To, um, unpack the, uh, effects of No. And low drinks. Yeah. On um, on harm and purchasing and, you know, gateway and cuz there's so many things going on here. Yeah. They are produced by the alcohol industry. Yeah. And they are a very clever, uh, way to make money in a, in an environment where drinking is generally going down. So, um, there are, there are issues here, especially like if you think about the vaping situation. Oh, that's right. Cigarettes. Oh yeah. So there is, and there are some people that trying to, you know, have alcohol problems and, and say that the no and low drinks actually got them started drinking again. So there's, it's a really messy space. Um, in some ways I think it's an excellent harm reduction practice if young people think now go to a bar. And those people that used to not really feel like drinking can have a, an alcohol free. Um, because they don't want to just drink Cordal. Mm-hmm. soft drink. Um, and then, you know, whereas previously they might have just ordered a drink to fit in or, you know, and, and they definitely have a place in the market, a really useful place, but it's really complicated. That's so interesting. It's funny, back in the day, remember there was a drink called Clayton's. Clayton's was a non-alcoholic brand of something, but it was a majority of, when you talked about someone as a Clayton's friend, They weren't a real friend. Oh, it was something in Sydney. Years and years. Years ago. Oh, it's kind of a cruel, isn't it? Like he's a bit of a Clayton's mate and it's like, Ooh. But it seems, it's amazing watching the trend shift. And I think those insights, Amy, is so, Cause I've always was looking at vaping the other day, and these complex laws, I'm not sure if it's Australia wide or just New South Wales, which they're technically banned, but they're just throughout all the schools. Like it's, you go to bathrooms and it's just reeks. And then the question is, Yeah. Is. Gateway who owns them all? Cause there's some cool hip little brands that are independent. Like Heaps normal is a beer brand. I'm not sure if they've been bought yet, but you can see if you're a big alcohol company, like we've gotta get in on that cuz there's some growth there. Um, no, that's really, really interesting. Wow. Yep, yep. The other thing you mentioned about the Claytons is, um, we've done research with, um, attitudes to non-drinkers and people are in Australia because we're such a. A normalized alcohol culture, um, really do find non-drinkers threatening in a social environment. Um, so they, they particularly think they're a threat to fun. They're a threat to social connection. Like, I can't connect with someone at, at a party who's not drinking. That's amazing. Um, but they're also threat to fun , but to fun . But yeah, they, they, they won't, they won't be as fun the party. It's fun if there's non-drinkers there. I won't have fun in this conversation if a non-drinker standing with me and threat to self, which means, um, they make me think about my own alcohol consumption in an uncomfortable way. Um, so these non non alcohol drinks might help with that situation. That, that you invited Bruce. Funny, but so when I moved to the States and lived there for 10 years, I was very much aware that I had come from a binge cultured drinking thing. And I think Chris might have pulled me up and. You might have a problem, mate. And in my later years when I've started to get headaches and drink, I would hold onto one beer and hold it for the whole party for the very reasons you've just said, Amy, I did not wanna look like I'm judging you, but I'm not drinking this. And it was just, it's such a game you play. It's like, okay, how am I gonna fit in and not get hammered? I remember when I was younger, reading an article in Esquire magazine that had basically an ode to drinking one drink at a party. Oh, . And it was the same argument. It was, You won't look like a boar. You can basically nurse the thing for hours and you, you know, basically can live a normal life. You won't have to like pay for it the next day. But that was years ago. And I'll, you know, just thinking about people who are middle aged and I, I, I'm presuming that culturally we were fairly similar back in the eighties and that kind of thing when we were coming into, uh, drinking age. Because actually the Gen Xers were pretty, a pretty big party generation. Um, at least from my experience, it was, we were interested in being adults as soon as we possibly could. Um, we weren't gonna be staying with mom and dad any longer than we had to. And it seems like a lot of that is completely shifted, right? There's people who don't drive as quickly. There's people who stay with their parents longer. There's people who, um, who. In great shape all the time, even regardless of whether they're into sports or not. Mm-hmm. , um, that was something that kind of happened as you got older and you had to start exercise. . Yeah, . I mean, that was like, it's just, there's a, there's a bunch of that that's changed and maybe for the better, uh, if, but it is interesting that you could get. All right. Let's just get back to this. This question of the whole bar is the, maybe the whole idea behind the non-alcoholic bar is if everybody there is not drinking, then you're not boring anymore. Mm-hmm. , right? Everybody's into the same thing maybe. And except for the poor guy who drinks who comes in there. Yeah. Um, and he's sad , but. Well, I have to tell you because I have been to this bar that they do sell G, right? . And you know that, Ken, I wonder how you know that. No, we did go there on a work evening because we wanted to check it out. No, none of us ordered the gym. Right. But they had this Oh, okay. They had this huge range of alcoholic drink, alcohol-free drinks, and then, but if you want, you can have too. Right. Which is that in Melbourne or Sydney? It's in Brunswick. In Brunswick, right? Yeah, in Melbourne. So, so, so is there, does the record needle sort of rip across the, the record when somebody orders the gym? I mean, I, I wonder, I wonder how much. I wonder how much of a cultural It's funny. Violation. I was very disappointed actually. really? They couldn't go the full way. Right. And have no, Right, right, right. Oh, that's funny. So, okay, so were the drinks good? Yeah, they were great and it was nice to have a range of them. They had great, um, cocktails, alcohol free cocktails and those sorts of things. It's interesting because then you get into a place of like really thinking about the flavor, like the experience of the drinking as oppos. The destination, which is, I'm gonna get Hammer, which I always think in Australia was, it was just a destination event. It's like how quickly, And you watch teenagers with goon bags, Like, you know, we've had to host some teenage parties and think, God, we've just gotten through that. But it's like, oh my God, this is just a, this is a sport to get as hammered as quickly and as cheaply as possible. And as an adult looking back, you're like, Oh my God, , I think, I think that's the part that you forget about with age is you know, you've, if you've developed an alcohol pallet and you actually appreci. Beer, wine, spirits, cocktails, that sort of thing, and you're, you're actually into the process of enjoying those things when you see your kids, which my kids are very similar ages to, to Jason's, In my case, both of one's out of college now and one's still in college. And you can see a year to year, they, they go from like white cloth to beer. To better beer, to somebody starts shrinking wine. Yeah. I mean, they get further and further away from, let me just shoot alcohol into my vein, . Um, and, and I so it, it's interesting because I think if you're, if you're at a place where you're thinking, Well, I'm, I'm actually trying to, you know, work down on the booze, but if I'm gonna have booze, it better be good booze. I don't know, I don't know how that relates to that group. And maybe that's just an age difference and who know. I think young people more generally are more interested in dining and good quality, um, cafe experiences. So I think it does fit. I think there has been a shift in that regard. Um, Uh, they, they, they have less money. It's a more precarious economic Oh right. Environment. And so they save, they, a lot of them in, in the qualitative data are saying, Look, we save, instead of blowing it on alcohol, which is really expensive, um, in Australia, I'm gonna save it for one fine dining experience or one, um, you know, nice, healthy experience. And so I think they are a bit more, Yeah, the taste quality is important. That's interesting. Oh, that's fascinat. Um, that, that really is amazing. That's cool. We, uh, getting to the end of our time, but there is a question we ask every guest, and that is the one myth you hear regularly about alcohol consumption that you'd love to debunk. Is there something that the media always says over and over again and you just sit there as a researcher going, That's bloody wrong, not like that. Yes. Well, with the young, the main thing that comes up when they hear that alcohol consumption is going down is, Oh, well that's because they're all using drugs. Oh, . Which isn't the case, , it is absolutely not the case. Um, drug use is going down for young people across the board. It's, it's, it's promising, right? Don't, you can't then say that something else is going up badly. Is are we all looking better now or no, no. Yeah. You know what, that sounds like, That sounds like you're, you're a loser friend who really hates the fact that somebody else is living a healthier life than them. So they have to, they have to crap all over the entire group of young people and say that it's cuz they're all on. They're all on the drugs. I guess one thing that's worth pointing out, um, is that young people seem to be more worried about the future, um, both in terms of their own economic and social security, but in terms of like global issues and climate crises and housing affordability, um, and social justice issues. Um, they do mental health problems seem to be getting worse. Um, they are spending more time. on their phones and their computers rather than being out with people. Right. Um, and so I think, I, I think it's, it's dangerous to alcohol consumption going down is part of a broader. Broader changes in the way young people are kind of doing, being young. Right. And I think there are some concerns there as, as well as some, some positives. Got it. That's good. Oh, okay. So we should probably explore that just to tad because I think the general, most of the literature I've come across researching for this episode is, Isn't it interesting cuz it's so different, isn't it? Is it a sign of a healthier young group? I have not seen too much. That doesn't mean you haven't, uh, that suggests well this entire group of people is anxious and depressed and so they're not going out and partying with people cuz they're not going out at all. I mean it's, that's too much clearly. But is there something to that though? I really think there is. I think as public health researchers, we have to be really careful. Saying. Alcohol consumption going down is a, is a bad thing. I think we have to be really careful with our messaging there. Um, but I think if you looked in different literature, um, focused on youth putting the alcohol aside mm-hmm. um, I think you might find a different picture about we should be worried about these increasing rates of mental health problems. And, um, especially, I'm not sure of the language cuz I'm not a psychologist, but it's the internal. Um, as opposed to the external internalizing seems to be, yeah, seems to be an issue for young people and they're, they're much less happy. So I think if you're looking in a different literature, you might find different answers. And would you say that's interesting trend was there, and then Covid was like an accelerant. It wasn't, it wasn't, Everyone was happy, happy happy. C oh my gosh, we not happy anymore. Like, is that true Covid? One more thing. I, I'm really not sure about that. This isn't my field, but I, I feel like some people, Covid was good for some it was bad. Mm-hmm. , I think the problem it did was, um, exemplify the, um, insecurities about what's happening with, um, you know, global kind of justice issues. There seems to be big swings to the left mm-hmm. And the right, um, creating more division. But that's not, again, that's not my. That's great. Gotcha. Can I ask one geeky academic question In, in your work, do you use a theory? Have you worked with a thing called Social practice Theory? Yes, I have. Yep. . Got it. And it's at one of the theoretical lenses through which you've looked at stuff. Yeah. Social practice theory is really wonderful. Um, social practice theory is particularly useful for understanding how, um, practices shift in a group, uh, over time and how they become normal or normalized. And I think that's, A big change in, in young people's alcohol use because, um, it's not as cool anymore. And so there's been some practice based shifts that have happened so gradually, um, that like it's cultural cache. Yeah, it's really shifted. Uh, good situations. Young people talk about being able to go to parties and it's really normal now. To be a non drinker. Yeah. Whereas previously that wasn't the, That's so fascinating. Thank you. I mean, well you, that, that made you a barrier to find Yeah. I love, That's such great, such great language and still, and, and still in, in, in middle aged people. That still keeps coming up barrier to fun because women, ah. I mean, you invited Bruce. He's the barrier to fun. women my age are still drinking as much, if not more, is that, um, so the Gen X women, uh, the Gen X and the baby boomer women, we we're really pulling the, that's, that's all of the big, the big booze companies. Love you. Yeah. Yeah. Well, what I, is there is, you know, we didn't even ask that question. Is there a demographic difference be, um, between men and women in that area or. Any of the other, We were just going young and old, but there's probably something else in. I mean, generally men drink more than women in all demographic groups. Um, the only difference is men's consumption in the Gen X and baby boomers isn't increasing, whereas the women's is. Gosh, that's so fascinating. Interesting. Wow. Okay. That's amazing. Thank you. That was such a great conversation. Thank you, Amy. Have you got any other questions? Chris? We've kind of, we've, we've, we've peppered you with lots of questions I think. Yes. That was awesome. Thank you. Uh, thank you very much for joining us, Dr. Amy Kenny. Thank you. Thank you for having me. Thank you for joining us at the Recombobu Later Lab with Chris Dominic and Jason Graham. How's you next time?

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