Journal Article

My own personal hell: Approaching and exceeding thresholds of too much alcohol


Objectives: Government guidelines aim to promote sensible alcohol consumption but such advice is disconnected from people’s lived experiences. This research investigated how people construct personal thresholds of ‘too much’ alcohol. Design and measures: 150 drinkers completed an online survey (Mage=23.29(5.51); 64.7þmale). Participants were asked whether they had an intuitive sense of what constitutes too much alcohol. They wrote open-ended descriptions of how that threshold had been established and how it felt to approach/exceed it. These qualitative accounts were coded using thematic analysis and interpreted with an experiential theoretical framework. Results: Personal thresholds were based on previously experienced embodied states rather than guidelines, or health concerns. Describing the approach to their threshold, 75% of participants fell into two distinct groups. Group 1’s approach was an entirely negative (nausea/anxiety) and Group 2’s approach was an entirely positive, embodied experience (relaxed/pleasurable). These groups differed significantly in awareness of alcohol’s effects, agency and self-perceptions, but not on alcohol consumption. Exceeding their threshold was an entirely negative embodied experience for all. Conclusion: These findings illustrate that people are guided by experientially grounded conceptions of consumption. Interventions could target different groups of drinker according to their embodied experience during the approach to ‘too much’ alcohol.

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Burgess, Mark
Cooke, Richard
Davies, Emma L.

Oxford Brookes departments

Faculty of Health and Life Sciences\Department of Psychology, Health and Professional Development


Year of publication: 2019
Date of RADAR deposit: 2019-05-03

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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