Perceived Friendship Among Young Adults Influences Binge Drinking Behaviors

binge drinking, alcohol, isolation
The researchers investigated the neural processes of social cognition that may underlie binge drinking, as well as potential differences between sexes.

Binge drinking behaviors among young adults are influenced by peer relationships. These findings were published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

Researchers from Yale University School of Medicine analyzed data from the Human Connectome Project (HCP) for this study. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data collected between 2012 and 2015 during a social cognition task performed by binge drinkers (n=175) and non-binge drinkers (n=285) were assessed.

The binge and non-binge drinker cohorts were comprised 125 and 97 men, respectively.

Perceived friendship scores were significantly higher among binge drinkers (F[1,459], 32.66; P <.001) and did not differ between genders (F[1,459], 0.91; P =.341). Severity of alcohol use differed significantly among binge and non-binge drinkers (F[1,459], 1584.49; P <.001) and genders (F[1,459], 17.42; P <.001) with a significant interaction effect (F[1,459], 17.85; P <.001).

The first dimension of the principal component was correlated with perceived friendship scores among all participants (r, 0.251; P =.000), men (r, 0.312; P =.000), and women (r, 0.192; P =.003).

The anterior medial orbitofrontal cortex (x, 0; y, 50; z, -8; peak voxel Z, 4.11; volume, 888 mm3) and left ventral precuneus (x, -8; y, -58; z, 24; Z, 4.03; volume, 576 mm3) had a higher response during the social cognition task among non-binge drinking women. These women also exhibited a significant cluster between perceived friendship scores and the right posterior insula (x, 36; y, -12; z, 8; Z, 4.85; volume, 472 mm3).

Among all participants, perception of social interaction significantly correlated with anterior medial orbitofrontal cortex and right posterior insula regions (r, 0.236; P <.001).

A mediation effect from anterior medial orbitofrontal cortex and right posterior insula via perceived friendship scores was observed with severity of alcohol use (root mean square of error approximation [RMSEA], 0.031; 95% CI, 0.000-0.077).

This study may have been limited by not assessing emotional processing differences between binge and non-binge drinkers and whether or not these differences influenced behavior.

These data validated previously published evidence that perceived friendship strongly associated with binge drinking and severity of alcohol use among young adults.


Li G, Chen Y, Le TM, et al. Perceived friendship and binge drinking in young adults: A study of the Human Connectome Project data. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2021;224:108731. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2021.108731