How do men who drink heavily manage their health and well-being?

The DruGS team are pleased to introduce Experiences of heavy drinking and serious health issues, a new website module that expands the coverage of alcohol consumption on our website exploring experiences of addiction,

Experiences of heavy drinking and serious health issues presents personal stories of men who experience serious alcohol-related health issues. Developed from a research project conducted by researchers at La Trobe University in collaboration with South Western Sydney Local Health District, the module gives voice to people who continue to drink while affected by alcohol-related health issues, and to improve understanding of their concerns and experiences among health professionals, friends and family. The module also sheds light on the difficulties some face in managing or changing their drinking, looking after their health and accessing treatment. Overall, Experiences of heavy drinking and serious health issues aims to inform public discussions of drinking, challenge stigma and promote understanding and support.

Drawing on ten in-depth qualitative interviews, the module presents the four main themes to emerge from our analysis of the interviews:

  • Perspectives on heavy drinking
  • Experiences of heavy drinking
  • Looking after health
  • Experiences of treatment

These themes are presented using video re-enactments, original audio recordings and written extracts, all taken directly from the interviews. By browsing the list of topics, you will find stories about the meaning of heavy drinking for our participants, the effects of heavy drinking on health and well-being, and the way regular drinking fits into everyday life and routines.

This module also presents life stories, reconstructed by the research team, based on the interviews. These stories provide important insights into the interests, daily lives and priorities of participants, and remind us that the men interviewed are whole people with rich and diverse lives.

One participant Steve (early 60s, Indigenous, previously worked in nursing, drinking less) explained that with the help of specialist services he was able to reduce his drinking, eat regular meals and exercise daily, all of which helped manage his alcohol-related health issues:

Now [my health is] a priority, because I’ve got to the age now where [it’s important]. I don’t get drunk any more. [Drinking] doesn’t take away all the stuff that [it used to] before. Health to me is eating two meals a day […] The last time I was in [hospital, I weighed] 76 kilos. Now I weigh [… more] because they put me on a supplement, so they could boost my protein […] and help [the peripheral vascular disease] in my feet. But now […] I know how to cook for myself. I know how to cook for one person now, and I have breakfast […] I do a four kilometre walk [each day].

Lead investigator Suzanne Fraser explained that one of the key aims of the new module was to highlight the effects of heavy drinking on health while also acknowledging how men look after their well-being and the strategies they use to manage their drinking:

We learnt so much about the meanings attached to heavy drinking for some men, and we now know much more about how men access treatment, the information they need, and the professionals they seek out.

Research team

Professor Suzanne Fraser (ARCSHS, La Trobe University)

Dr Renae Fomiatti (ARCSHS, La Trobe University)

Dr Michael Edwards (Formerly Drug Health Services, South Western Sydney LHD)

Ms Stephanie Hocking (Drug Health Services, South Western Sydney LHD)