The ABC has recently been reporting on the purported connections between alcohol and violence. But another article published on the national broadcaster has refuted those claims, indicating that the problem might be one with social and cultural dimensions.
Anthropologist Dr Anne Fox has been commissioned by the Lion food company to conduct inquiries into drinking cultures around the world. The experienced researcher believes that the social outcomes of drinking may not technically be associated with the intake of alcohol.
“Australians, like many other people worldwide, have a very pervasive belief that alcohol can transform your behaviour, that it’s a transformative substance, that somehow there’s this genie in the bottle that can make you behave a certain way,” she told the ABC’s PM. “Alcohol – as all of the scientific literature shows, which we’ve reviewed very extensively in the report – cannot be considered a cause of violence. If it was, we’d see uniform levels of violence among all drinkers.”
Dr. Fox also refutes the claim that alcohol is to blame for a scientifically observable change in mood. “You find that most of the research is finding that it’s not so much that alcohol causes aggression as that people who are already aggressive or have other underlying tendencies which predispose them to aggression, such as depression or bipolar disorder or schizophrenia or hyper-aggressivity, poor impulse control – these people tend to drink heavily,” she told the ABC.
Additionally, the doctor says that preconceived notions of inhibitions also impact upon our response to alcohol. “Your inhibitions are just social rules. Anthropologists for decades now have been finding through international cross-cultural studies that the way you behave when you’re drunk is mostly the way that your culture teaches you to behave. You can see across the world that people behave very, very differently, despite being morphologically similar human beings and drinking the same amounts of alcohol.”
In the end, Dr. Fox says that Australia’s drinking culture is mostly macho and male dominated. “We see that it’s not so much the patterns of drinking or the levels or consumption that determine how people behave, but other features of culture that are magnified through drunkenness,” she said. But how do we change those critical features of our culture?
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