‘Why can't I just not drink?’ A qualitative study of adults' social experiences of stopping or reducing alcohol consumption

Ashlea Bartram, Jaklin Eliott, Shona Crabb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction and Aims: Alcohol is ingrained in Australian culture, playing an important role in 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 norms that drink represents. This study aimed to investigate the social experiences of adults who stop or reduce their alcohol consumption. Design and Methods: Sixteen semi-structured interviews were conducted with people aged over 25 years who had stopped or significantly reduced their alcohol consumption for at least 3 months in the past year and were thematically analysed. Results: Participants found themselves stigmatised for violating expectations around alcohol consumption when they tried to stop or reduce their own drinking. Although most were able to either conceal their change in alcohol consumption or present it so that it did not challenge norms around drinking, this approach was seen as a temporary measure and not one to employ with people with whom they socialised regularly. Instead, many participants sought to change their interactions with their social group to focus on activities with which alcohol consumption was not strongly associated. Discussion and Conclusions: Reducing or stopping alcohol consumption can have positive consequences for health, yet it can also raise social challenges that individuals need to negotiate in order to maintain their social well-being. This tension suggests a need for health promotion campaigns to address the social as well as health consequences of reducing alcohol consumption. [Bartram A, Eliott J, Crabb S. ‘Why can't I just not drink?’ A qualitative study of adults' social experiences of stopping or reducing alcohol consumption. Drug Alcohol Rev 2017;26:449-455].

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449-455
Number of pages7
JournalDrug and Alcohol Review
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 1 Jul 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • alcohol abstinence
  • Australia
  • health promotion
  • qualitative research
  • social norms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health(social science)

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