Contexts: Home, Events, Cognitions, Cultures

To motivate someone to change his or her drinking behaviour, it is crucial to understand the plethora of individual and contextual factors shaping this behaviour.

Therefore, CAPR investigates how person-specific factors (expectancies, motives, socio-economic status etc.) and cultural norms and social expectations shape drinking patterns in different settings (at home, in the nightlife, on weekends, while watching sport events etc.) and among different subcultures (nurses, sports bar attendees, gamblers, etc.).

Projects within this body of work may feed into the individual, social and cultural acceptability of policy changes, for example, in relation to sporting events.

Research Team:

Senior researchers: Amy Pennay, Sarah Callinan, Robyn Dwyer, Emmanuel Kuntsche, Sarah MacLean

Research officers, PhD/honours/ma students: Oliver Stanesby, Florian Labhart, Geoff Leggat, Janette Mugavin

Projects within this area:

Everyday alcohol consumption in Australian homes (ARC DECRA)

Media reporting and research on alcohol consumption most commonly focuses on drinking in public places and the problems that can ensue from this. Particular attention has been given to drinking in and around bars and other licensed venues in the night-time economy. Despite this, the largest proportion of alcohol consumed in Australia is drunk in people’s homes, with just under two thirds of alcohol in Australia consumed in the drinker’s own home, with another 12% consumed in other people’s homes.

Sarah Callinan was successful in securing funding through an ARC DECRA fellowship to take a multi-faceted approach to researching drinking in the home. This project, funded over three years, includes an online survey about how people’s home drinking practices are shaped by habit, in-depth interviews about drinking in the home, and an investigation using longitudinal survey data into how intimate partners or married couples influence each other’s drinking.

Data collection for the first part of the project, the online surveys, has been completed; interviews commenced in 2018, with data collection expected to be finished by June 2019; a peer-reviewed paper examining how cohabiting couples influence each other’s drinking has been submitted thus far. This paper found that cohabiting heterosexual couples do influence each other’s drinking, however female influence on male drinking appears to last longer than male influence on female drinking. Future papers will explore how a couple’s alcohol consumption is affected by major life events such as pregnancy, divorce and changes in financial situation.

La Trobe Researchers: Sarah Callinan, Sarah Maclean, Janette Mugavin, Geoffrey Leggat


Funder: Australian Research Council DECRA Grant

Social change and youth drinking: A cross-cultural and temporal examination (ARC DECRA)

Australia, Sweden and the UK have recorded their lowest rates of youth alcohol consumption in 20 years, representing a significant development for public health. Sustained reductions in youth drinking have the potential to reduce alcohol consumption across the population as this generation moves through the life course. However, it is not clear whether today’s youth are simply delaying the age at which they begin heavy drinking or whether they will continue drinking less as adults. The overarching aim of this DECRA is toexplore the cultural status that alcohol holds for abstinent and light drinking youth using qualitative methods, in particular:

a) how the cultural status of alcohol for abstinent and light drinking youth varies across cultural contexts (focusing on case examples from Australia, Sweden and the UK), and

b) whether and how the cultural status of alcohol for abstinent and light drinking youth in Australia varies over time as they move into young adulthood.

Understanding the cultural differences and alcohol trajectories for abstinent and light drinking youth is needed to support the development of strategies to sustain these trends through informed social policy, potentially decreasing alcohol-related harm for an entire generation.

Researchers: Amy Pennay, Jukka Törrönen, John Holmes, Gabriel Caluzzi

Funder: Australian Research Council (Discovery Early Career Researcher Award)

Relevant publications by CAPR:

Pennay A, Callinan S, Livingston M, Lubman DI, Holmes J, MacLean S, Herring R, Dietze P. Patterns in Reduction or Cessation of Drinking in Australia (2001–2013) and Motivation for Change. Alcohol and alcoholism. 2018 Oct 20;54(1):79-86.

Pennay A, Holmes J, Törrönen J, Livingston M, Kraus L, Room R. Researching the decline in adolescent drinking: The need for a global and generational approach. Drug and alcohol review. 2018 Apr;37:S115-9.

Understanding heavy alcohol consumption cultures among nurses and lawyers and investigating frames for intervention (ARC Linkage Grant)

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).

Researchers Dr Robyn Dwyer, CAPR, Dr Amy Pennay, CAPR, Dr Michael Savic, A/Prof Sarah Maclean, CAPR, Prof Robin Room, CAPR, Dr Rowan Ogeil, Prof Dan Lubman, Mr Jarryd Bartle, Jarry Bartle Consulting

Partner Organisations: VicHealth, Eastern HealthNursing and Midwifery Health Promotion Victoria, Jarryd Bartle Consulting

Dusk2Dawn: Youth nightlife spaces, activities, and drinks (Idiap Research Institute, Switzerland)

Emmanuel is one of two chief investigators on the project, a collaboration with the Swiss research institute, Idiap. The Dusk2Dawn project, which is part of Florian Labhart’s PhD thesis aims to combine methods of ubiquitous computing, addiction science, and human geography to characterise night time behaviour and uncover risk factors for heavy drink and alcohol-related consequences.

Work on this project has also involved a cross-discipline collaboration with colleagues in La Trobe’s Department of Computer Science and Information Technology. This collaboration involves ongoing co-supervision of a Bachelor of Computer Science Honours student who is scheduled to complete a research-based thesis in 2019.

La Trobe Researchers: Emmanuel Kuntsche, Florian Labhart

Alcohol consumption and the role of interpersonal and household influences within Australian households

An individual’s alcohol consumption is shaped by many factors. In particular, the drinking habits of others we are close to can have a large effect on our perceptions and ideas regarding alcohol. Given this, Geoffrey’s PhD project aims to identify and describe the influences within relationships and households contributing to changes in alcohol consumption. The role of relationship and household factors and events will be assessed to evaluate, not only the effect they have on an individual’s alcohol consumption, but also how they interact with the influence that is exerted by the alcohol consumption of partners or family.

La Trobe Researchers: Geoffrey Leggat, supervised by Sarah Callinan, Michael Livingston & Sandra Kuntsche

The ‘drinking context’ in context: What role does the immediate environment play in young adults’ drinking behaviours and how to capture it with a smartphone application?

Florian’s PhD thesis explores different aspects of the development and implementation of research in alcohol use in the event using a smartphone application. This comprises (1) the development of the ‘Youth@Night’ app and the evaluation of users’ experience with this data collection tool, (2) the exploration of alcohol use behaviours and cognitions at the event level and prospectively using questionnaire data, (3) the investigation of the opportunity to replace participants’ self-reports of their behaviours and contexts by collecting media data, in terms of short videos of the immediate environment, (4) the implementation of a representative street-intercept recruitment technique using geo-located data generated on social networks apps to quantify the popularity of nightlife regions over an entire city.

Researchers: Florian Labhart, supervised by Emmanuel Kuntsche, Daniel Gatica-Perez & Rutger Engels

In the study of alcohol consumption and its antecedents, a particular focus has been on better understanding how individuals develop beliefs about the likely outcomes of alcohol consumption (alcohol expectancies). Alcohol expectancies are important predictors of different drinking patterns and alcohol-related harms.

In the past researchers have relied on questionnaires to assess expectancies, however questionnaires are time-consuming and dependent on self-report which is subject to bias.

The Alcohol Expectancy Task was developed to overcome such limitations. This improved tool will present different illustrated scenarios and ask people to indicate what they think a person has been drinking by choosing from four alcoholic (e.g. beer) and eight non-alcoholic beverages (e.g. coffee).

Megan and Emmanuel are working on a project led by researchers at Edge Hill University, Lancashire, UK, to revise this task in order to address limitations and to assess its validity in other age groups and cultures. This involves research with participants in Australia, the UK and the US. The revised task will be a valuable resource enabling researchers to better understand one dimension of alcohol-related cognitions – expectancies – which are important precursors of consumption and harms.

La Trobe Researchers: Emmanuel Kuntsche, Megan Cook

Disrupting the unhealthy relationship between alcohol and sport (LTU RFA)

A significant relationship between alcohol and sport spectatorship is well established in Australia. Research has demonstrated that sports fans drink more alcohol and experience more alcohol-related problems than non-sports fans. In Victoria, this is evidenced by increased rates of ambulance and emergency department attendances for intoxication after sporting events, including after Australian Football League (AFL) games. More detailed information on contexts and event-level factors that both encourage and limit heavy drinking by sports spectators is necessary to develop meaningful targeted interventions. This study will involve collection of detailed real-time information from people across multiple settings as they watch AFL using two novel data collection approaches: Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) combined with transdermal alcohol measurement using SCRAM-CAM monitors. This is a feasibility and pilot study. Our aim is to refine recruitment and data collection processes before expanding the sample and possibly extending the study to other sports beyond AFL.

La Trobe Researchers: Amy Pennay, Cassandra Wright, Kelly van Egmond, Emmanuel Kuntsche, Daniel Anderson-Luxford, Gabriel Caluzzi, Michael Livingston, Geoff Dickson, Matthew Nicholson

Funder: La Trobe University (Building Healthy Communities Research Focus Area)

Hidden Harm: Everyday Alcohol Consumption in Australian Homes (ARC DECRA)

This Discovery Early Career Research Award fellowship awarded by the Australian Research Council is focussed on drinking in the home.  Quantitative and qualitative data on Australians aged 30-65 who regularly drink at home has been collected.  In the meantime she has also continued her work on harms experienced from drinkers in the home and international trends in alcohol consumption among other topics.

La Trobe Researcher: Sarah Callinan,

Funder: Australian Research Council, Discovery Early Career Research Award fellowship

Relevant publications:

Callinan, S., & Livingston, M. (2019) Projected increases in alcohol consumption will result in a disproportionate increase in harms in low and middle income countries. The Lancet, 393(10190), 2471-2472.

Callinan, S., Rankin, G., Room, R., Stanesby, O., Rao, G., Waleewong, O., Greenfield, T.K., Hope, A., and Laslett, A.M. (2019). Harms from a partner’s drinking: an international study on adverse effects and reduced quality of life for women. American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 45(2), 170-178

Livingston, M. & Callinan, S. (2019) Examining Australia’s heaviest drinkers. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, Early Online View, doi: 10.1111/1753-6405.12901.

Pennay, A., Callinan, S., Livingston, M., Lubman, D., Holmes, J., MacLean, S., Herring, R., Dietze, P. (2019) Patterns in reduction or cessation of drinking in Australia (2001-2013) and motivation for change. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 54(1), 79-86.

Pham, L. T., Callinan, S. & Livingston, M. (2019) Patterns of alcohol consumption among people with major chronic diseases. Australian Journal of Primary Health, 25(2), 163-167