“Women of my age tend to drink”: The social construction of alcohol use by Australian and Danish women aged 50–70 years
Sociology of Health and Illness
School of Medical and Health Sciences
In Australia and Denmark, women aged 50–70 years are more likely than younger women to consume alcohol at levels that exceed national low risk drinking guidelines. To explore and possibly help explain this sociocultural shift in patterns of alcohol use, this research investigated the social construction of alcohol use amongst 49 women (25 in Northern Denmark, 24 in Western Australia) aged 50–69 years. The women viewed drinking as normal and acceptable. While some women reported reducing their drinking due to health concerns, others neutralised alcohol-related health risks through compensatory behaviours including exercise. Such constructions arguably serve to sustain at-risk drinking amongst some women. Our research highlights that interventions to minimise alcohol-related health risks amongst middle-aged and young-old women should acknowledge that women's social construction of their drinking practices may prioritise subjective experiences of “being in control” while drinking, over biomedical understandings of the health impacts of alcohol.