Monday, April 26, 2010
British researchers found that young people's alcohol consumption doesn't mirror the pro athletes they admire.
Whether it’s photos showing Michael Phelps smoking marijuana, doping allegations leveled at athletes like Marion Jones and Floyd Landis, the marital woes of Tiger Woods, or drunken driving charges for Charles Barkley; sports stars are frequently caught behaving badly. Each new incident seems to bring a collective finger-wag from the public, and charges that since young people look up to athletes, they should behave accordingly.
But a new study suggests that young people really don’t make health decisions based on athletes’ behavior – at least when it comes to alcohol consumption (Barkley might have been right way back in 1993 when he declared “I am not a role model.”). British researchers at the University of Manchester and the University of Western Sydney had more than 1,000 young sports fans and those who didn’t follow sports report how they perceived the drinking behavior of some famous athletes. The same group of young people was asked to report their own drinking habits according to the World Health Organization's Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test.
"Our research shows that young people, both sporting participants and non-sporting participants, don't appear to be influenced by the drinking habits of high-profile sportspeople as depicted in the mass media,” said Dr. Kerry O'Brien, the lead researcher for the study.
Most recently, the Canadian women’s hockey team came under international scrutiny after they brought beer, champagne and cigars onto the ice to celebrate their Olympic gold medal win. Gilbert Felli, head of the Olympic Games for the International Olympic Committee, condemned the celebration, saying that athletes shouldn’t drink in public and that the team provided a bad image for sports values.
In the end, athletes are human. They take part in unhealthy behaviors the same way average Joes do. It’s understandable to admire their athletic accomplishments, and to want to mirror the dedication and perseverance that helped them achieve their goals; but ultimately, each person should make health decisions based on their instincts and their own sense of what’s best for one’s body; not on what a pro athlete is doing.
Photo credit: Scott LaPierre
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Posted by Sara Libby at 3:33 AM