It is good for your health and character, and can be one of life’s hardest challenges. But according to new research, most of us only do it secretly avoid feeling stigmatised by our friends.
Research from the University of Adelaide shows that many people try to reduce their consumption of alcohol in secret, by routinely removing themselves from situations involving alcohol to avoid feeling stigmatised about “violating expectations” in their social circles.
“In interviews with participants, it became quite clear there is a stigma attached to people cutting back on alcohol or stopping it altogether. It’s as though some kind of social code has been violated by the person who has chosen, for whatever reason, to stop drinking,” Ashlea Bartram, who has been conducting the study as part of her ongoing PhD research, says.
In looking at the social experiences of people who want to change their drinking habits, Ashlea found an overwhelming amount of the study’s participants used excuses to avoid drinking socially – such as needing to drive or being unwell. Participants would also focus on organising activities where drinking wasn’t the main focus.
“Those who found new ways to spend time with their peers that weren’t focused on alcohol often find it’s the best approach,” Ashlea says.
“Some have received strong support from their loved ones, and others have reported improved quality of social interactions – such as meaningful conversations – when alcohol is taken out of the equation.”
Tips to minimise drinking:
Try not to drink in rounds: Taking turns or ‘shouting’ your friends can lead to the quickest drinker leading the pace when drinking out at a bar or pub. To avoid this, opt to buy your own drinks or buy smaller rounds with just a few friends.
Set alcohol-free days: If you really want to minimise your drinking, set yourself days, weeks or months-long periods in which you don’t drink alcohol. Start small with only one day, and reward yourself each time you reach your goal by doing an activity you enjoy or buying yourself something nice.
Reduce alcohol in your drink: Avoid full-strength drinks and opt for light beer or reduced alcohol wine, or mix spirits in a weaker measure. Try to pace drinks by drinking something non-alcoholic, like water or soft drink, in between every alcoholic drink.
For more information on reducing your drinking habits, visit drinkwise.org.au