Socio-Ecological Influences on Adolescent (Aged 10-17) Alcohol Use and Unhealthy Eating Behaviours: A Systematic Review and Synthesis of Qualitative Studies

Nutrients. 2019 Aug 15;11(8):1914. doi: 10.3390/nu11081914.


Excess body weight and risky alcohol consumption are two of the greatest contributors to global disease. Alcohol use contributes directly and indirectly to weight gain. Health behaviours cluster in adolescence and track to adulthood. This review identified and synthesised qualitative research to provide insight into common underlying factors influencing alcohol use and unhealthy eating behaviours amongst young people aged 10-17. Sixty two studies met inclusion criteria. Twenty eight studies focused on alcohol; 34 focused on eating behaviours. Informed by principles of thematic analysis and meta-ethnography, analysis yielded five themes: (1) use of alcohol and unhealthy food to overcome personal problems; (2) unhealthy eating and alcohol use as fun experiences; (3) food, but not alcohol, choices are based on taste; (4) control and restraint; and (5) demonstrating identity through alcohol and food choices. Young people faced pressure, reinforced by industry, to eat and drink in very specific ways, with clear social consequences if their attitudes or behaviour were deemed unacceptable. No qualitative studies were identified with an explicit and concurrent focus on adolescent eating behaviours and alcohol consumption. Further exploratory work is needed to examine the links between food and alcohol in young people's emotional, social and cultural lives.

Keywords: adolescent; alcohol use; eating; qualitative research; systematic review.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Child Behavior*
  • Diet / adverse effects*
  • Emotions
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nutritive Value*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Underage Drinking / psychology*