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Type: Theses
Title: Negotiating the social consequences of stopping or reducing alcohol consumption
Author: Bartram, Ashlea Jade
Issue Date: 2018
School/Discipline: School of Public Health
Abstract: There are compelling health reasons to limit alcohol consumption, but this consumption is ingrained in Australian culture, playing an important role in the rituals of many social occasions. This can make reducing or stopping alcohol consumption challenging, as one risks rejecting, not just a drink, but also the valued social meanings that drink represents. In this thesis, I aimed to identify how Australians who stop or reduce their alcohol consumption negotiate the social consequences of this change. I employed a sequential exploratory research design, involving three qualitative studies: (1) interviews with 16 people who had recently stopped or significantly reduced their alcohol consumption; (2) interviews with 13 people with a significant other who had recently stopped or significantly reduced their alcohol consumption; and (3) analysis of campaign materials from two temporary alcohol abstinence campaigns, Dry July™ and Ocsober™. In the first study, I found that people could be stigmatised for violating expectations around alcohol consumption when they stopped or reduced their drinking. They could manage this stigma within drinking occasions by downplaying their non-drinking or presenting it as socially acceptable, for example, linked to a fundraiser like Dry July™. However, in the longer term, they preferred to modify their social interactions to accommodate non-drinking. These modifications required the support of their social companions, and were more readily accepted where they still carried the same meanings as those previously conveyed by alcohol. Given the importance of support from social companions, in the second study, I identified the types of accounts people draw on to justify providing this support: (1) deontological accounts referring to duty or obligation; (2) consequentialist accounts in which costs for providing support were minimised or balanced; and (3) accounts which attended to the importance of maintaining relationships through shared experiences. Deontological accounts positioned supporter and recipient asymmetrically, while the other account types positioned each party symmetrically, consistent with friendship norms. As the first study identified temporary abstinence campaigns as an acceptable reason for (short-term) non-drinking, in the third study I explored how two of these campaigns portrayed participant experiences. Both campaigns featured an overarching portrayal of a hero’s journey, with participants embarking on a quest to fundraise for their cause, and returning from their experience transformed. However, the campaigns differed in the way they positioned participants, with only Dry July™ consistently positioning participants in ways that encouraged longer-term behaviour changes—suggesting that not all temporary abstinence campaigns may be equally effective as health promotion tools. Overall, my findings emphasise that health promotion campaigns must move beyond individualistic conceptions of behaviour, to attend to the social as well as health consequences of reducing alcohol consumption. Although individualistic strategies, such as participating in temporary abstinence campaigns, can help in managing social situations in the short-term, more ongoing changes to alcohol consumption can risk one’s social group memberships, unless the changes are supported by the group. By attending to how people can negotiate this support, health promotion campaigns may better assist people to stop or reduce their drinking, without sacrificing their social well-being.
Advisor: Eliott, Jaklin Ardath
Crabb, Shona Helen
Hanson-Easey, Scott
Dissertation Note: Thesis (Ph.D.) (Research by Publication) -- University of Adelaide, School of Public Health, 2018
Keywords: Research by publication
alcohol abstinence
alcohol drinking
social behaviour
health promotion
qualitative research
Provenance: This electronic version is made publicly available by the University of Adelaide in accordance with its open access policy for student theses. Copyright in this thesis remains with the author. This thesis may incorporate third party material which has been used by the author pursuant to Fair Dealing exceptions. If you are the owner of any included third party copyright material you wish to be removed from this electronic version, please complete the take down form located at
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