Date of Award

1-1-2001

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Health Science

Faculty

Faculty of Communications, Health and Science

First Advisor

Associate Professor Lynne Hunt

Second Advisor

Associate Professor Sherry Saggers

Abstract

It is a widely held view in Poland that for centuries those in power have promoted heavy drinking among their subjects in order to achieve their various goals and that this contributed to the development of Polish drinking patterns. There is some empirical evidence that the political economy of alcohol in Poland promoted heavy drinking among the Polish population. Drinking alcohol in Poland was an important aspect of social situations. The most popular beverage was vodka(s). Social pressure to drink in the extreme was attributed to the tradition of hospitality. Cultural norms encouraged very heavy drinking among men and imposed heavy social sanctions on women who were supposed to display virtues of abstinence. The typical model of drinking was intermittent very heavy drinking, leading to intoxication on most occasions. These norms reinforced the notion that "we can drink more because we are Poles" and the view that safe drinking messages are designed for other nations because "Poles are accustomed to drinking strong alcohol, unlike others". Adult male informants reported drinking much less in Australia than in Poland. The biggest change was a lack of social pressure to drink. Although men claimed that they drink less, some still drink in an unsafe manner. These were largely those whose English skills restricted their employment and friendship networks. Women, on the other hand, admitted that in Australia they drink more often and more alcohol at a sitting than in Poland. Although informants did not mention any alcohol-related family problems in Australia, others reported alcohol related violence within some families. Some safety messages about alcohol do not reach this sample of people. Many view drink driving rules as purely revenue raisers for the government. However, advice from their medical practitioners to reduce their alcohol intake for serious health reasons is given more credibility. Young Polish Australians formed two groups in their attitude to drinking. The first group consisted of people who attended tertiary educational institutions and consumed alcohol in a similar fashion to other Australian students. It is likely that the university environment influenced their drinking patterns. Those who witnessed drinking at home and perceived it as a good thing, modelled their drinking on their parents' and other adults at home. Others, who perceived their parents as non-drinkers, learned to drink from their friends and displayed similar drinking patterns to their peers. The second group was older; some were in the workforce and manifested drinking patterns akin to those in the general Australian population in the same age bracket. Both groups of these young Polish Australians were much more aware of alcohol health messages and more likely to modify their behaviours such as not to drink and drive, than was the older population. However, other drinking related health warnings were largely disregarded. This research demonstrates the negative impact of reduced government funding for English programs and ethno-specific services for migrant groups. More research is needed on migrant drinking in Australia, specifically among those groups whose drinking continues to be problematic.

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