Nurses and lawyers' heavy drinking study

Researchers at La Trobe University’s Centre for Alcohol Policy Research (CAPR) will lead a project to investigate heavy alcohol consumption cultures among nurses and lawyers in Victoria.

The project, which has received $237,000 in Government-funding through an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant, could ultimately lead to new campaigns and activities to reduce harmful drinking among the two groups.

Lead researcher, Dr Robyn Dwyer, said nurses and lawyers represented sizeable workforces who often worked with vulnerable people. In 2015 there were about 330,000 nurses employed in Australia; and about 71,500 solicitors were practising in 2016.

“Collective drinking such as after-work drinks and networking is a part of the occupational activities of nurses and lawyers and while we know that heavy drinking occurs among these groups, little is known about their drinking cultures that support these drinking patterns,” Dr Dwyer said.

“Research has already shown that large proportions of these two workforces drink more than is recommended. This potentially poses risks to the long-term wellbeing and safety of individual nurses and lawyers, but could also affect their care and support of patients or clients.”

The researchers will conduct the study in natural settings where nurses and lawyers drink together. This will allow the team to collect new knowledge on the cultural and social practices, meanings, and settings that shape heavy drinking among nurses and lawyers, which will help identify opportunities for drinking culture change within the two occupational groups.

Dr Dwyer said the focus on drinking cultures within subgroups of the population is a newly emerging and important complement to population or individual-level approaches to reducing alcohol-related harms. She said the approach has been spearheaded by the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth) and this study is the first time the approach has been applied to understanding drinking among nurses and lawyers.

  • The project is a collaboration between researchers at CAPR and Monash University, in partnership with the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth), Eastern Health, the Nursing and Midwifery Health Program Victoria and Jarryd Bartle Consulting (JBC).