An exploration of the social and cultural functions of drinking alcohol within the home for professional middle-aged women: implications for public health
Gillian Cowan-Williams 1430617 ...
AuthorsCowan-Williams, Gillian A.
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AbstractEvidence suggests that middle-aged women in the UK are drinking more alcohol today than in previous generations, particularly those in professional roles. Similarly, the place of drinking is changing, too, with recent data suggesting that women within this age group are drinking more at home. From a public health perspective, liver disease is now the second leading cause of death in working-age people, and 5%-11% of breast cancer diagnoses in women are attributed to alcohol consumption. Research which seeks to understand why women within this demographic are drinking more at home remains limited. Alcohol research has, to date, focused primarily on younger people. The qualitative study, situated within the interpretivist paradigm, sought to understand whether social and cultural changes have impacted middle-aged professional women’s consumption of alcohol in the home. Unstructured interviews were undertaken with ten middle-aged professional women. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analysed using thematic narrative analysis. Bourdieu’s theory of practice was used as a conceptual framework, and narratives further analysed through a Bourdieusian lens. Findings indicate that alcohol is used as a means of relaxation, reward, and coping with pressure and stress, particularly for those with caring roles across ascendant and descendant generations. Increased availability, accessibility, and reduced cost have resulted in alcohol being part of the weekly supermarket shop. A positive portrayal of alcohol through both television and social media was found to increase consumption. Scepticism was displayed towards the government’s low-risk drinking guidelines. Furthermore, a lack of concern was noted regarding the potential detrimental impacts of alcohol consumption on health. Viewed through a Bourdieusian lens, findings indicate that habitus became a structure that generated dispositions toward an expectation of drinking at home and a normalisation of that behaviour for the women. Accumulation of capital enabled the women to become “connoisseurs” within the social field of home drinking, differentiating their taste in what they viewed as socially acceptable alcohol consumption, notably wine. Within the field of home drinking, women who consumed alcohol felt at ease as they were conforming to the game's rules—conversely, those who tried to reduce their drinking experienced feelings of unease. This research provides new insights into middle-age professional women who drink alcohol at home. Findings suggest that social and cultural changes have contributed to increased drinking at home for this population cohort. Recommendations for further research opportunities are made, and implications for public health policy and practice discussed. Highlighted is the need for future partnership approaches to tackle this increasing public health concern.
CitationCowan-Williams, G. A. (2022). An exploration of the social and cultural functions of drinking alcohol within the home for professional middle-aged women: Implications for public health [Unpublished doctoral thesis]. University of Chester.
PublisherUniversity of Chester
TypeThesis or dissertation
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