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Middle-age adults more concerned about reputation than health when drinking alcohol, study says

Alcohol can negatively affect your health in several ways, but middle-age drinkers aren’t very concerned about the risks. They are more worried about their reputation, according to a new report. 

» RELATED: Just one drink a day can increase your risk of cancer, study says

Researchers from the University of Adelaide in Australia recently conducted a study, published in the BMC Public Health journal, to explore drinking patterns among “non-problematised” middle-age adults. 

To do so, they examined nine previous assessments from Britain, Austria, Japan and Norway and investigated how drinking is influenced by four essential themes: gender, play, identity, and learning to drink.

After analyzing the results, they found people age 30 to 65 did not identify health as a significant concern in relation to alcohol consumption, unless they were likely to harm another. “Health was either described as a minor concern or not considered at all,” the team said in the study.

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Instead, they cared more about displaying the negative effects of drinking, such as having slurred speech, vomiting or experiencing a hangover. They believed these behaviors were associated with those with drinking problems. The participants also often mentioned the need to be able to meet work and domestic responsibilities, particularly among parents and caregivers. 

“Acceptable drinking was framed as respectable drinking that was appropriate to one’s age or stage of life and which allowed participants to meet their responsibilities,” the authors wrote. “By contrast, unacceptable drinking was drinking that was inappropriate to one’s age or stage of life and/or prevented one from meeting their responsibilities.”

When it came to gender, they discovered women were more likely to be scrutinized for how much they drank compared to men, while men were more criticized for what they drank. For example, some subjects “drew on the social capital of wine connoisseurship to construct alternate masculinities, and other men stated that drinking outside of the ‘pints in pubs’ model could be done in ‘exceptional circumstances’ such as holidays and special occasions,” the team stated. 

To better serve middle-age adults, the authors said public health campaigns may be more helpful if they show how drinking impacts reputation and behavior rather than health. They pointed to South Australia’s “Drink Driving—Grow Up” campaign as an example, which “suggests that drink-driving is ‘childish’ behaviour by using child actors in adult roles.” 

“Our results offer insights into how public health messages about the health effects of alcohol consumption may be received by middle-age non-problematised drinkers,” the authors concluded, “and the barriers that may prevent this group from receiving and acting on these messages.”

» RELATED: Study: Non-drinkers more likely to miss work than drinkers

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