Page last updated: July 9, 2013

The ‘other’ in patterns of drinking: A qualitative study of attitudes towards alcohol use among professional, managerial and clerical workers

Recent research suggests that workers in white collar roles consume more alcohol than other groups within the workforce, yet little is known about their views of drinking. A UK study by academics at the University of Sunderland analysed the drinking habits and the reasons for drinking among workers in the public and private sectors, aged between 21 and 55.

Focus groups were conducted in five workplaces to examine the views of white collar workers regarding the effect of alcohol use on personal and professional lives, drinking patterns and perceived norms.

The groups discussed their drinking patterns, their perceived norms and how much alcohol they consumed on a personal level as well as professional situations, such as entertaining clients.

Researchers found that white collar workers, a term used to describe people who have a professional or managerial-role, are “largely disregarding the harmful health and social effects” of drinking alcohol. They found that those middle-class workers who drank at home viewed alcohol as a reward for everyday chores after work hours, such as looking after their children and cooking dinner for the family. Alcohol was also used to alleviate stress and as a way of telling the individual that they had fulfilled their commitments.

In light of the new evidence researchers feel public health warnings are failing to resonate with white collar workers and have instead “actively reinforced their view that their own alcohol use was problem-free”. The respondents believed that the “problem drinkers” did not include stay-at-home evening drinkers.

The research concludes that a complete overhaul of public health messages is needed to give a more realistic picture of those affected by alcohol and that in future public health messages should focus on a typical person and the damages that can happen to their long-term health, and not solely the crime or disorder that alcohol abuse can result in amongst younger members of society.

Running Head: Alcohol use by white collar workers will be published in the BMC Public Health.


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