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Psychol Health. 2016;31(1):79-99. doi: 10.1080/08870446.2015.1070852. Epub 2015 Jul 30.

Staying in the 'sweet spot': A resilience-based analysis of the lived experience of low-risk drinking and abstention among British youth.

Author information

  • 1a School of Psychology , University of Sussex , Falmer , UK.
  • 2b University of Exeter Medical School , Exeter , UK.
  • 3c Division of Primary Care and Public Health, Brighton and Sussex Medical School , University of Brighton , Falmer , UK.
  • 4d Community University Partnership Programme, University of Brighton , Falmer , UK.
  • 5e MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit , University of Glasgow , Glasgow , UK.



The aim of this study was to understand how and why young people drink less or not at all when with their peers. Understanding the subjective experiences of moderate or non-drinkers may help identify protective processes facilitating resilience to cultural norm and influences that encourage excessive alcohol consumption among young people.


Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 25 moderate- or non-drinkers aged 17-25 years (13 young women) living in South East England. Interviews explored recent experiences of social situations and encounters that did or did not involve alcohol. Transcripts were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis.


Analysis identified six conceptually coherent themes clustering within a superordinate theme of a healthy experience of moderate alcohol use or abstention: 'the sweet spot'. These themes were: feeling good in the body, feeling like you can be who you are, feeling like you belong, making a free choice, enjoying the moment, and feeling safe and secure.


This resilience-based analysis showed how non-drinking and moderate-drinking may be experienced as a positive and proactive choice. Understanding the subjective experiences of young people may aid development of specific, realistic interventions to promote moderate drinking and abstention among young people in drinking cultures.


adolescence; alcohol; peer relationships; protective mechanisms; resilience

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