Foster, John and Heyman, Bob (2013) Drinking alcohol at home and in public places and the time framing of risks. Health, Risk & Society, 15 (6-07). pp. 511-524. ISSN 1369-8575

The United Kingdom has witnessed a steady rise in per capita consumption of alcohol in the three decades leading up to 2004 since when there has been a decline. Much of this increase can be accounted for by increased drinking away from licensed premises. In this article, we analyse the ways in which people who drink in such settings think about the temporal dimension of risks which they associate with alcohol consumption. We present findings from a qualitative study which explored accounts of drinking away from licensed premises, either at home or in public places such as parks, given by adults and young people of age 13 and over. We found that research participants associated drinking away from licensed premises with immediate risks. Those risks they identified included fights breaking out at home or in a public place, drinking to excess, falling over and becoming ill when intoxicated. Respondents mostly did not express concerns about longer-term health risks. However, some research participants did bring in a more extended time frame in relation to ‘setting boundaries’ so as to prevent gradual escalation of consumption, and avoiding ways in which ‘alcohol can change one’s life’ for the worse. We will argue that the predominance of mostly short-term thinking about alcohol consumption in the face of public health messages about the accumulation of health risks may be accounted for by the contradictory nature of such advice, and/or by the positive cultural and personal value placed on drinking.

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