Image: Behind the scenes - studio

What is “The Sweet Spot”?

“The Sweet Spot” approach focuses on helping young people to make the best decisions for themselves about whether or not to drink alcohol, and about how much they choose to drink. This approach is based on our research with young people, where we talked about their experiences with their friends. We have used this research to develop a website and classroom resources. We are also planning other ways to share information about what young people think works to help them to have a good time without drinking too much.

What did young people tell us about not drinking too much?

Young people told us that when you don’t drink too much, or you don’t drink at all, you feel good in six main ways: you feel good in your body, you feel safe and secure, you feel you’ve made a free choice, you feel like you belong, you feel like you can be who you are, and you’re enjoying the moment. We’ve called this: “the Sweet Spot”.

These ways of feeling good look different from person to person, because we are all so different – one person’s way of feeling good in the body might be sleeping in on a Sunday, and another’s might be going for a run!

This project is designed to help you figure out what the Sweet Spot looks like for you, and how your choices help you stay there – using the experiences and advice of young people who are doing this themselves.

“It’s been fun filming this with everyone – it’s nice to see that the idea that you can have a good time without alcohol is being promoted. I found it difficult at first when I decided I didn’t want to drink alcohol, but I soon found a lot of ways to have fun with my friends, whether they were drinking or not.”

Who are the young people in the videos?

Image: Behind the scenes - makeupNone of the young people you see on the videos or on the website are professional actors. In fact, only one told us that he had ever been on camera before.

Some of the people you see on-screen have taken part in previous research on alcohol use; some are groups of friends who were interested in the project; and some are students from universities and secondary schools. Some of them have tried alcohol, some of them haven’t. They all wanted to share experiences and advice about what it’s like to not drink too much.

In the videos and on the website, young people use a combination of their own words and words that the research team helped write based on interviews with other young people who don’t drink too much. Everything you see in the videos and on the website comes from the experiences of real people who took part in the research and filming process.

Who they are

“It’s been good fun filming today. Hopefully, this will be my big break. Stardom here I come! On a more serious note, it’s great to be able to promote a good cause. I know it has been a long time in the making and I hope it will be a useful tool for the future.”

Where did the idea of the “Sweet Spot” come from?

We conducted interviews with young people 16-25 years old who drink occasionally, not at all, or who have stopped drinking. We asked them about their experiences: How did they make decisions about alcohol? What worked well for them? What did they struggle with? How were their friendships? How did they feel about themselves? What have they learned? What advice would they give to young people who didn’t want to drink too much? We asked them for their perspectives.

We then examined these interviews, looking for common themes, important differences, and what they thought worked to keep them happy and healthy. We used a psychological method of analysing the interviews so that we could be more certain that our findings really represented what these young people thought about their lives.

“This experience has been great. I’ve never had the chance to do this before– it has been fascinating to learn how things work behind the scenes. I hope that this video will get the right message across to young people about drinking. It seems the only messages that young people are given are the really negative ones– so I hope that this video will help people to understand that it is OK to have a drink, just don’t go overboard and make sure that everyone is looking out for each other.”

Where did this research come from?

Image: Behind the scenes - drinking sodasIn another study, young people had told us that they thought it was important to talk about specific advice and strategies for real-world social situations. They thought this was an important addition to other things they might learn about alcohol, like how many units are in different drinks, or the long-term health consequences of excessive drinking. They wanted to talk about how to handle themselves in regular social situations where alcohol might be around.

The Chief Medical Officer advises that an alcohol-free childhood is the healthiest and best option. Everyone chooses whether they’re going to drink or not. A lot of young people do eventually try alcohol, and many people do drink in a responsible way, but many young people say it can be hard to figure out how to do this – especially when you get caught up in the moment. Many people end up drinking a little more than is healthy for them, even though they aren’t alcoholics. So it’s important to talk about how to enjoy yourself while not drinking a lot, or even not drinking at all.

That way you can make the best decision for you, right now – whatever that may be – and you know how to do it. Instead of thinking you’re missing out if you don’t drink a lot, you realize that you may actually be gaining ways of making your life better. That’s what The Sweet Spot approach is all about.

Why I participated

“It was a brilliant experience of being filmed in the video, especially because it is intended to bring benefits to public and give useful advice about moderate drinking based on real life experience. I met new, interesting people and we had a lot of fun.”

Where did you get the statistics for the first video?

Image: 2 in 5 young people who got drunk in the last month didn't mean to We conducted a study with more than 1000 young people in South East England asking them about their experiences with alcohol. The facts we present in the first video come from that study.

“I never had a chance to film a video in a proper studio, with professional equipment and producers. I have had a lot of fun and I hope the video can provide people a new perspective. Healthy drinking does not mean you shouldn't drink at all but just that you have control over how much to drink and when to stop.”

What was in that “dirty pint” in the second video?

That was a combination of cola, energy drink, orange juice, beef-flavoured crisps and a flapjack. We wanted to make it look disgusting, like the mixed drinks you sometimes see people dared to drink. It smelled really horrid, and we accidentally spilled some in the studio. The cameraman wasn’t happy.