Department of Educational Psychology


How Social Reactions to Alcohol-Related Facial Flushing Are Affected by Gender, Relationship, and Drinking Purposes: Implications for Education to Reduce Aerodigestive Cancer Risks

Ian Newman, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Lanyan Ding, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Duane F. Shell, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Lida Lin, University of Pittsburgh - Main Campus

Document Type Article

Copyright © 2017 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license. Used by permission.


Alcohol-related facial flushing is a sign of compromised alcohol metabolism and increased risk of certain cancers. This project examined how facial flushing might be used to reduce alcohol use to lower cancer risks. Interviews with Chinese university students identified gender, friendship, and drinking purpose as important variables related to whether someone would encourage a person who flushes when drinking alcohol to stop or reduce their drinking. A questionnaire was developed that incorporated these variables into 24 drinking scenarios in which someone flushed while drinking. Students responded whether they would (a) encourage the flusher to stop or drink less; (b) do nothing while wishing they could; or (c) do nothing because there was no need. Analysis of survey responses from 2912 university students showed a three-way interaction of the variables and implied that the probability students will intervene when a drinker flushes was highest when the flusher was a female, a close friend, and the drinking purpose was for fun and lowest if the flusher was a male, the friendship was general, and the drinking purpose was risky. The results provide important details about the social factors affecting how other people respond to a person who flushes when drinking alcohol. This information is useful for those considering ways to reduce and prevent aerodigestive cancers through education and information programs.