Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

The ‘other’ in patterns of drinking: A qualitative study of attitudes towards alcohol use among professional, managerial and clerical workers

Jonathan Ling1*, Karen E Smith1, Graeme B Wilson2, Lyn Brierley-Jones1, Ann Crosland1, Eileen FS Kaner2 and Catherine A Haighton2

Author affiliations

1 Department of Pharmacy, Health & Wellbeing, University of Sunderland, Sunderland, SR1 3SD, UK

2 Institute of Health & Society, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE2 4AX, UK

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Citation and License

BMC Public Health 2012, 12:892  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-892

Published: 23 October 2012



Recent evidence shows that workers in white collar roles consume more alcohol than other groups within the workforce, yet little is known about their views of drinking.


Focus groups were conducted in five workplaces to examine the views of white collar workers regarding the effect of alcohol use on personal and professional lives, drinking patterns and perceived norms. Analysis followed the method of constant comparison.


Alcohol use was part of everyday routine. Acceptable consumption and ‘excess’ were framed around personal experience and ability to function rather than quantity of alcohol consumed. Public health messages or the risk of adverse health consequences had little impact on views of alcohol consumption or reported drinking.


When developing public health alcohol interventions it is important to consider the views of differing groups within the population. Our sample considered public health messages to be of no relevance to them, rather they reinforced perceptions that their own alcohol use was controlled and acceptable. To develop effective public health alcohol interventions the views of this group should be examined in more detail.

Alcohol; Focus groups; Public health; Norms