Defending, contesting and rejecting formal drinker categories: how UK university students identify as ‘light-drinkers’ or ‘non-drinkers’

Conroy, Dominic, Griffin, Christine and Morton, Charlotte (2021) Defending, contesting and rejecting formal drinker categories: how UK university students identify as ‘light-drinkers’ or ‘non-drinkers’. Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy, 29 (5). pp. 509-518. ISSN 0968-7637

[img] Text
2021_dep&p_Defending contesting.docx - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial 4.0.

Download (70kB)
Official URL:

Abstract / Description

Definitions of drinker ‘categories’ (e.g., ‘light drinkers’) typically ignore the role of self-identification involved in drinking practices. To explore this, we presented self-identified ‘non’ or ‘light’ drinkers with official formal definitions of ‘light’ and ‘binge’ drinking as found in public health and academic research. A qualitative design was adopted. Semi-structured interviews with ten 18-27-year-old UK University students self-identifying as non-/light-drinkers were analysed using critical discourse analysis. A first data pattern saw participants working to defend and maintain self-identified ‘light drinker’ status in the face of contradictions to such claims. A second pattern involved participant challenges to the rigidity and legitimacy of formal drinking categories. A third pattern reflected participants' rhetorical work to hold at bay or reject disavowed and stigmatised drinking categories (e.g., 'alcoholic'). Interviews suggested how formal definitions could create ideological dilemmas for participants, partly through investment in how formally defined drinker categories connected with recent personal drinking practices. Our data helps explain why units-based drinking guidelines may be poorly understood. More nuanced use of ‘drinker categories’ in units-based drinking guidelines could strengthen the visibility and credibility of alcohol health messages or could be drawn on in digital interventions designed to encourage moderate consumption behaviour by delivering personalised feedback.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: alcohol; binge drinking; drinking guidelines; critical discourse analysis; university students; young adults
Subjects: 300 Social sciences > 360 Social problems & services; associations
Department: School of Social Sciences and Professions
Depositing User: Dom Conroy
Date Deposited: 09 Jun 2021 09:07
Last Modified: 11 Jan 2024 15:38


Downloads per month over past year

Downloads each year

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item