Staying ‘in the zone’ but not passing the ‘point of no return’: embodiment, gender and drinking in mid-life

Lyons, A. C., Emslie, C. and Hunt, K. (2014) Staying ‘in the zone’ but not passing the ‘point of no return’: embodiment, gender and drinking in mid-life. Sociology of Health and Illness, 36(2), pp. 264-277. (doi:10.1111/1467-9566.12103)

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Publisher's URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-9566.12103

Abstract

Public health approaches have frequently conceptualised alcohol consumption as an individual behaviour resulting from rational choice. We argue that drinking alcohol needs to be understood as an embodied social practice embedded in gendered social relationships and environments. We draw on data from 14 focus groups with pre-existing groups of friends and work colleagues in which men and women in mid-life discussed their drinking behaviour. Analysis demonstrated that drinking alcohol marked a transitory time and space that altered both women's and men's subjective embodied experience of everyday gendered roles and responsibilities. The participants positioned themselves as experienced drinkers who, through accumulated knowledge of their own physical bodies, could achieve enjoyable bodily sensations by reaching a desired level of intoxication (being in the zone). These mid-life adults, particularly women, discussed knowing when they were approaching their limit and needed to stop drinking. Experiential and gendered embodied knowledge was more important in regulating consumption than health promotion advice. These findings foreground the relational and gendered nature of drinking and reinforce the need to critically interrogate the concept of alcohol consumption as a simple health behaviour. Broader theorising around notions of gendered embodiment may be helpful for more sophisticated conceptualisations of health practices.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Hunt, Professor Kate and Emslie, Dr Carol
Authors: Lyons, A. C., Emslie, C., and Hunt, K.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > MRC/CSO SPHSU
College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > Public Health
Journal Name:Sociology of Health and Illness
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
ISSN:0141-9889
ISSN (Online):1467-9566
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2014 The Authors
First Published:First published in Sociology of Health and Illness 36(2):264-277
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License
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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
656581Gender and HealthKathryn HuntMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_12017/3IHW - MRC/CSO SPHU