Harms to 'others' from alcohol consumption in the minimum unit pricing policy debate: a qualitative content analysis of U.K. newspapers (2005-12).
Bottom Line: The harm caused to families was less widely reported.If news reporting encourages the public to perceive the harms caused by alcohol to wider society as having reached crisis point, a population-based intervention may be deemed necessary and acceptable.However, the current focus in news reports on youth binge drinkers may be masking the wider issue of overconsumption across the broader population.
Affiliation: MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK.Show MeSH
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Mentions: Across newspapers, alcohol consumption was widely reported as permeating every level of society, harming everybody directly or indirectly (see Fig. 2), and described as a ‘blight’ on society (Politician, Express, 6 June 2011). There was some divergence in whose alcohol consumption was reported to be harming ‘others’. Many articles referred to an ‘irresponsible minority’ (Politician, Guardian, 15 February 2012) of drinkers and also singled out young binge drinkers. Such groups were reported as becoming increasingly irresponsible in their drinking behaviours and blamed for a range of both intentional and unintentional harms to ‘others’ through their ‘alcohol-fuelled’ anti-social behaviour. Articles repeatedly mentioned ‘out-of-control’ ‘gangs of youths’ and described images of ‘… city centre streets … full of brawling, shouting, puking youngsters …’ (Editorial Journalist, Sunday Mirror, 25 March 2012). A second group widely identified across the newspapers were dependent drinkers who were frequently described as ‘reckless’. Both these groups were presented as the ‘visible’ or ‘problem’ ‘minority’ largely responsible for causing harms to the ‘sensible’ ‘responsible’ ‘majority’. There was a tendency to characterize ‘high-strength, low-cost alcohol’ (Government Spokesperson, Daily Telegraph, 30 June 2008) and ‘cut-price booze’ (Journalist, Mirror, 10 November 2008) as fuelling harms to ‘others’. A less common (but nevertheless observed) theme was in relation to harmful alcohol consumption at the population level. It is of interest that while some articles referred to overconsumption across the population, direct reference to groups causing harm to ‘others’, with the exception of those mentioned above, was largely absent. One article referred to ‘middle class drinkers who binge on alcohol at home’ being ‘just as responsible as drunken youths roaming the streets’ (Religious Leader, Mirror, 15 June 2009). Another stated that ‘behind closed doors, the prosperous and impecunious alike are drinking too much’, costing Scotland in ‘house fires and accidents in the home as well as lost working days, disease and premature death’ (Features Journalist, Herald, 27 November 2009).
Affiliation: MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK.