RMIT Vietnam News"Một, hai, ba, dzô!"

"Một, hai, ba, dzô!"

Monday, November 24, 2014 - 12:45
A "bia hơi" drinking venue in Hanoi. Photo credit: Florian Klorn

Study finds peer pressure fuels drinking in Vietnam.

Efforts to curb Vietnam's damaging levels of alcohol consumption should consider peer pressure's large influence on social drinking, RMIT University Vietnam researchers say.

Alcohol is a public health concern for Vietnam. The World Health Organisation says Vietnam's alcohol consumption rises annually. Alcohol has also been attributed to more than a third of the nation's road deaths.

As part of their study, RMIT University Vietnam researcher Hau Pham and Assistant Professor Dr Lukas Parker have observed 175 groups drinking at a total of 38 venues across Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi this year. The research team also includes Professor Linda Brennan from RMIT University Melbourne and Dang Nguyen, who is a former researcher at RMIT Vietnam University and is now undertaking a masters degree at Oxford University.

"In Vietnam, group drinking has a distinct cultural significance," Hau says.

"Synchronised drinking" is common and involves a loud toast of "Một, hai, ba, dô!" ("One, two, three, in!"). Toast initiators also declare the amount of alcohol fellow drinkers are to finish each round, normally "trăm phần trăm" (100 per cent), or "năm mươi phần trăm" (50 per cent).

"Our data shows evidence of peer pressure in drinking such as verbal coercion, synchronised drinking practices such as repeated toasting, and unrequested filling of glasses by group members and service staff," Hau says.

"Pressure to keep up to speed was strong, with chides usually related to masculinity for those who did not keep up, and there were numerous instances of physical pushes to drink more."

"Pressure was particularly apparent in Hanoi with whole tables of up to ten drinkers forced to keep up in terms of the number of mouthfuls, glasses and/or bottles. If someone in the group had finished the glass, the rest of the table had to follow."

Dr Parker says interventions targeting groups rather than individuals may be more effective to promote responsible drinking and reduce alcohol-related injuries and deaths.

"Targeting groups is important in Vietnam where conformity is commonplace and social harmony is highly valued," he says. "Strong social rules associated with drinking, including sharing, reciprocity and conformity, constrain anti-consumption choices for the individual."

Efforts to reduce alcohol consumption in Vietnam, he says, should also consider very different group drinking behaviours between Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. Three-litre beer towers with taps for self service are popular in HCMC but not in Hanoi, even within the same national beer club chain. Also, "bia hơi", a local draft beer, and 500mL vodka bottles are much more common in Hanoi.