Exploring the male friendships and masculinities of young men who identify as ‘light’ drinkers

Annamae Burrows*, Carol Emslie, Elena Dimova, Simon Hunter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review

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Background: Alcohol can play a role in facilitating temporary emotional intimacy and bonding among men. Heavy alcohol consumption is also commonly associated with traditional views of masculinity and can therefore be a salient feature in male friendship spaces. However, men are more likely than women to consume alcohol at harmful levels and consequently experience significant rates of alcohol-related harm. It is therefore imperative to explore how men experience male friendships and develop masculine identities in ways which do not increase health risks. This research sought to explore the friendship experiences of men who identify as ‘light’ drinkers and the ways they form social connections with other men.
Aims/Objectives: This research aims to explore how young men who identify as ‘light’ drinkers experience friendships with other men and develop masculine identities.
Design/Methods: A diverse sample of young men (18-34 years) is being recruited from social spaces and online communities. Focus groups have been conducted with established male friendship groups followed by subsequent semi-structured interviews with the ‘light’ drinkers in each group. This research has been conducted from a social constructionist standpoint, and data are analysed using reflexive thematic analysis. Findings from the current sample are presented.
Preliminary Findings: Light drinkers faced pressure to ‘meet the vibe’ of heavier drinkers to maintain social connection, however light drinking and non-drinking were reframed by some men as a masculine choice. Shared leisure activities enabled light drinkers to participate in male friendship groups without alcohol, but these activities did not necessarily facilitate emotional intimacy and many light drinkers sought this from the women in their lives. Finally, many men desired open and emotionally intimate male friendships and discussed navigating conflicting lingering traditional masculine perspectives.
Conclusion: This research represents the first in-depth qualitative study exploring the friendship experiences of ‘light’ drinking young men in Scotland and the ways in which they construct masculine identities within male friendships. These findings are useful to health policies/interventions and third sector organisations seeking to reduce drinking and social isolation among men. They highlight social barriers associated with reduced drinking, but also ways in which men navigate these while maintaining male friendships.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 23 Nov 2023
EventMen's Health: Strategy, Policy and Practice - The Stoller Hall, Manchester, United Kingdom
Duration: 23 Nov 202323 Nov 2023


ConferenceMen's Health: Strategy, Policy and Practice
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • masculinities
  • friendships
  • alcohol consumption

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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