Affordances of Home Drinking in Accounts From Light and Heavy Drinkers
Home alcohol use contributes substantially to health harms associated with alcohol consumption. Drawing on practice theory and new materialism, this study argues that alcohol use is a social practice that allows particular sets of effects, or affordances when it takes place in a person’s home.
Qualitative interviews were conducted by telephone with 40 Australian adult home alcohol use, of whom 20 used at a level designated as low risk and 20 at a level which exposed them to a higher likelihood of harm.
The analyses identified four substantive affordances of home alcohol use practice.
- The first two concern transformations of home life. Home alcohol use allowed both celebration and smoothing of dissatisfaction with domestic relationships.
- Through producing subtly different affective states at home compared to in other locations, alcohol use practice rendered domestic settings home-like: as places of comfort and respite.
- The second two affordances of home alcohol use concern how the home as a place acts in the co-constitution of alcohol use patterns.
- This entailed routinizing alcohol consumption alongside other home-based practices and loosening constraints on intoxication.
Importantly for this argument, each of these operated with greater intensity for participants who consumed at a heavier level than for those who consumed at a lower level. For example, heavy alcohol users expressed a greater imperative to alter relationships and affective states at home and emphasized how being at home produced opportunities for, and removed obstacles to, heavy alcohol use.
This study shows that home alcohol use is patterned with other activities and entwined with domestic wellbeing and the emergence of home as a space of privacy, autonomy, and relaxation for Australians in this study sample. Understanding home alcohol use as deeply embedded in the constitution of contemporary western domestic life helps to explain heavy alcohol consumption in these settings. It also supports the need for targeted public health responses such as restrictions on home delivery of alcohol.