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NZ study finds that we binge because we don't care

By RJ Whitehead , 08-Nov-2012

We might know it from our own personal experience, but now it’s backed up by research: the reason why diets fall flat while drinking can go through the roof during the Christmas holiday season is because people just don’t care.

According to University of Canterbury consumer scientist Dr Ekant Veer, most people forget about their health during office parties and traditional eating and drinking binges over Christmas and New Year. Instead, they prefer to party and celebrate.

Choosing what to remember

"My research has found that personal health messages are ignored by the majority of people, especially when there’s a justifiable reason, such as office parties, Christmas or New Year’s Eve,” he said.

"There are more important things on our mind other than how many calories we are eating or how much we are drinking, and the traditional messages about excess consumption being bad for our health go out of the window because we believe that a binge is okay at times like Christmas and end-of-year parties.”

However, we do still take into account messages about ruining a social occasion. “We might not care about messages that say 'excess alcohol causes liver damage' but we would listen to messages that say 'if you drink too much, you ruin the party for everyone'. The latter message really works in situations and parties where social approval is important."

Letting loose

Veer said eating and drinking in moderation is definitely something that can be ignored at the office Christmas party, but our bad behaviour isn’t easily forgotten in the sober light of the morning after, when people must go back to work and face their colleagues again. 

His research found that making people more aware of their behaviour and how it affected the wider social group does have an impact on their behaviour when they go out.

For some people after a few drinks, they can just zone out. However, having a frank discussion beforehand can help moderate people’s behaviour on the day or night,” he explained.

"However, when you are in the midst of party mode, you can’t use that opportunity to have a deep discussion – it just doesn’t work."

Editor's note: Does Dr Veer's research ring true? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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