University of Stirling experts explore framing of alcohol harm

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Experts at the University of Stirling are leading a new research project aiming to create a better informed, more balanced and compassionate national conversation around alcohol harm.

The study – funded by Alcohol Change UK – will explore how people understand and talk about alcohol harm, and how that affects what they think should be done to reduce it.

Led by Professor Niamh Fitzgerald, Director of the Institute for Social Marketing and Health at the University of Stirling, the collaboration will also involve researchers from University College London, University of Sheffield, London South Bank University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, in partnership with FrameWorks UK and the Race Equality Foundation.

Professor Fitzgerald said: “We are delighted to be taking forward this exciting and innovative project with Alcohol Change UK. Public understanding of alcohol harms and policies, and our behaviours, are influenced by the stories or ‘frames’ we hear from others and those we tell ourselves. This project aims to change the way we talk and write about alcohol, to build support for positive change.”

Professor Niamh Fitzgerald

Professor Niamh Fitzgerald is leading the new project.

The project seeks to improve the way in which alcohol harm is framed in the UK – leading to more nuanced and evidence-based conversations and policymaking, which will create the conditions in which alcohol problems are less likely to develop. Better conversations will also make it easier for people who want to reduce or stop drinking to do so, including asking for and accessing help if they need it. Ultimately, it hopes to inspire and motivate society to reduce alcohol harm and support those affected.

The research team will understand how people currently think and feel about alcohol harm and the factors behind it, before exploring how to better communicate these important issues. The project’s vision is for the conversation around alcohol harm to be compassionate, empathetic, balanced, supportive and non-judgemental, understanding and knowledgeable, and motivated to deliver change.

Lucy Holmes, Director of Research and Policy at Alcohol Change UK, said: “We believe the national conversation about alcohol can be better – more nuanced, more evidence-based, and kinder. We want it to be easier for people to take control of their own drinking, and to ask for and access help when they need it. We want to see better, evidence-based policy-making that takes the steps that will work to reduce harm. Above all, we want to inspire and motivate everyone to reduce alcohol harm and support those affected. We’re pleased to be able to support this ground-breaking new work, which is strongly welcomed by the alcohol harm sector.”

The study is now under way and will take around 18 months to complete.

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