Public health strategies designed to curb alcohol consumption typically focus on economic markers such as alcohol pricing and availability, education on the harms associated with substance misuse, or programs designed to improve social skills and emotional regulation. However, recent research published in the international journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence suggests that the sorts of lifestyle factors promoted in Western Australia’s Act-Belong-Commit mental health promotion campaign could contribute to reductions in problem drinking in older adults. This prospective study of over 3,600 Irish adults aged 50+ showed that the more people were engaged in activities indicative of acting, belonging and committing at time 1, the less likely were they to report problem drinking 2-3 years later. And vice versa, those less engaged in meaningful activities at time 1, were significantly more likely to report a new drinking problem 2-3 years later.
“I’m spending around 20 hours a week doing things outside of
“When there is so much going on in your life, you
“It’s pretty simple, I started to do things instead, and having a drink wasn’t the focus of my day”
Campaign Manager Amberlee Nicholas
“Previous research has shown that the more people participate in activities indicative of acting, belonging and committing, the lower their risk of developing mental health problems such as anxiety, depression and cognitive decline. This new research suggests such activity can also lower the risk of problem drinking”.
Professor Rob Donovan, founder of the campaign and UWA Adjunct Professor said “These results are consistent with other research showing that loneliness and isolation are associated with problem drinking, including using alcohol to deal with stress. Our results indicate that keeping active, having supportive social networks and engaging in meaningful enjoyable activities not only enhance
Act-Belong-Commit was developed by Mentally Healthy WA at Curtin University. The campaign has attracted interest from researchers and
Santini et al. ‘The association between Act-Belong-Commit indicators and problem drinking among older Irish adults: Findings from a prospective analysis of the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA)’. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. 180 (2017) 323–331.
Photo: Michael Cheffins on the Main Soundshell Stage for the 2016 Act-Belong-Commit Zig Zag Festival introducing the other members of the Festival