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Psychol Health. 2014;29(5):536-51. doi: 10.1080/08870446.2013.866673. Epub 2013 Dec 19.

Being a non-drinking student: an interpretative phenomenological analysis.

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a School of Psychology, University of Sussex , Falmer , UK.


Recent research suggests that safer student alcohol consumption might be assisted by understanding how social occasions are managed by non-drinkers. In-depth, semi-structured interviews with five 19-22 year old non-drinking English undergraduates were subjected to interpretative phenomenological analysis. We present five inter-linked themes: 'living with challenges to non-drinking'; 'seeing what goes on in drinking environments'; 'dealing with conversations about non-drinking (making excuses vs. coming out)'; 'knowing which friends care about you'; and 'the importance of minimising "legroom" for peer pressure'. Participants felt under persistent peer scrutiny (as a form of peer pressure) and could feel alienated in drinking environments. Talking about non-drinking was characterised by whether to 'come out' (as a non-drinker) or 'fake it' (e.g. 'I'm on antibiotics'). Loyal friendships were reported as particularly important in this context. The decision not to drink was experienced as providing a successful buffer to peer pressure for former drinkers. Our findings unsettle traditional health promotion campaigns which advocate moderate drinking among students without always suggesting how it might be most successfully accomplished and offer tentative guidance on how non-drinking during specific social occasions might be managed more successfully. Findings are discussed in relation to extant literature and future research directions are suggested.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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