Is the provision of information enough to reduce risky behaviours in young people?

Drugs Kill, photo by Flikr user Randy Edwards

The government’s drug strategy talks about ensuring schools provide accurate information on drugs and alcohol through drug education as a core element in its attempts to reduce drug use, but is does the evidence suggest that information provision will work?

The Department for Education have commissioned the Centre for Understanding Behaviour Change to produce a review looking at research focused on raising awareness of the consequences of risk taking behaviours and studies using a social norms approach.

The report finds that focusing on providing information is more successful at changing knowledge and perceptions than changing actual behaviour, and this is particularly true on programmes that focus on the consequences approach.

This is something we’ve been clear about for some time, we consistently point out that emphasising knowledge and health harms (particularly extreme harms) without building up protective factors, skills and values  and reducing risk factors have a history of being ineffective. Continue reading

Health behaviours survey shows levels of risk taking in youth

The Department of Health have published what they say will be the first in a series of reports into the core health behaviours of target groups for their social marketing strategy.

As you’d expect I’ll focus on what it has to say about the younger people and particularly the group of 11-17 year olds.  But there’s also data on adults and on pregnant women and mothers of under 2 year olds.  Again it won’t be a surprise that the core health behaviours that I’ll pay attention to are around drugs, alcohol and tobacco. Continue reading

More on public health messaging

frank - cokeWe’ve seen that the Department of Health have decided to stop paying into the advertising budget for FRANK TV ads and posters, like the one to the right.

A recent conversation I had with someone in the DH suggested that one of the reasons for that was because they want their advertising spend to lead to a change of behaviour.

My view of FRANK adverts (both print and digital) is that their purpose is to persuade young people to use other parts of the service (website, helpline etc.) rather than change behaviour per se.

That may be a good thing as the recent article on the BBC’s website about FRANK pointed out there isn’t much evidence for media campaigns changing people’s behaviour when it comes to drugs.  Indeed this helpful summary of the evidence on Drug and Alcohol Findings suggests that US attempts “may have promoted more pro-cannabis attitudes and beliefs”.

Nevertheless, posters remain a core activity of a lot of public health campaigns.  So, if you were going to try to develop a campaign that does lead to behaviour change what might you do?

Continue reading

Peers influence adolescent drinking, but not always how you might expect

New Dutch research suggests that peer influence is important, particularly if it is positive.

We found that adolescents adapted their willingness to drink substantially to the alcohol norms of their peers. Adolescents were more willing to drink when peers were holding pro-alcohol norms and adolescents were less willing to drink when peers were holding anti-alcohol norms. Adolescents were more influenced by popular than unpopular peers. Interestingly, the anti-alcohol norms of popular peers seemed most influential in that adolescents were less willing to drink when they were confronted with the anti-alcohol norms of popular peers. Additionally, the adolescents internalized these anti-alcohol norms, which means that they were still less willing to drink when the anti-alcohol norms of these peers were no longer presented to them.

via Peers influence adolescent drinking, but not always how you might expect.