The role of alcohol in forging and maintaining friendships amongst Scottish men in midlife


Hunt K, Emslie C & Lyons A (2013) The role of alcohol in forging and maintaining friendships amongst Scottish men in midlife. Health Psychology, 32 (1), pp. 33-41.

Objective: Men drink more heavily and are more likely to die from alcohol-related causes than women. Most alcohol research focuses on young drinkers. We describe the context of men's drinking in midlife and explore how alcohol is associated with the construction of masculinities. Method: Qualitative research was used to examine the social context of drinking alcohol. We conducted 15 focus groups (single and mixed sex) with respondents in the west of Scotland, United Kingdom. Here we focus on the findings from 22 men aged 28 to 52 years. Results: Men regarded drinking pints of beer in the pub together as an "act of friendship" and this functioned as a hegemonically appropriate way to communicate with and support each other. However, male friends also constructed some nonhegemonic behaviors as forgivable-and indeed acceptable-while drinking alcohol together. This included practices such as the explicit discussion of emotions and mental health and the consumption of"feminine"drinks under certain circumstances (e.g., in private, with close friends). Conclusions: This exploration of drinking reveals the fluidity of gender constructions-and the strategic ways in which men take up positions around hegemonic masculinity-in midlife. The close interweaving of drinking pints in the pub with notions of male friendship could lead to both health-damaging (excessive drinking) and potentially health-promoting (social support) behaviors. Health promotion experts need to be sensitive to cultural constructions of gender to address the high rates of drinking in this age group. © 2013 American Psychological Association.

Applied Psychology; Psychiatry and Mental health

Health Psychology: Volume 32, Issue 1

FundersMedical Research Council
Publication date31/12/2013