Page last updated: May 2019

Young people shift the ‘soft stigma’ of alcohol abstinence in Finland and Australia

A cross-cultural analysis of young non-drinkers in Finland and Australia found that groups in both countries employed similar methods to manage the ‘soft stigma’ of abstinence. Researchers from Griffith University’s Centre for Social and Cultural Research interviewed young people aged between 18 and 29 who described themselves as non-drinkers. Their study, published in the Journal of Youth Studies, identified six key ways participants managed the potential stigma and isolation of being a young person who does not drink alcohol:

• Selecting the right response and crowd – hiding or denying non-drinking status to avoid explaining non-drinking to others • Taking the focus away from alcohol – social gatherings with the focus away from alcohol – baking or sports

• Having a group or scene of non-drinkers – finding others who share similar values and behaviours towards alcohol

• Being active and having fun – physical recreation or music (festivals, events)

• Understanding non-drinking as an individualYoung people shift the ‘soft stigma’ of alcohol abstinence in Finland and Australia choice and control – emphasis on individual choice without condemning others’ decisions to drink

• Moralising alcohol consumption – positioning themselves as morally superior to bingedrinking peers.

Lead author Dr Pavlidis commented “Both Finland and Australia have high rates of alcohol consumption but despite this, both countries are experiencing significant reductions in the numbers of people who drink,’’ “Even though young adults face the threat of soft (less severe than other stigma) stigma, they not only use strategies to hide their non-drinking or stay away from drinking situations but also play an active role in redefining social situations and practices and taking a moral stand against the culture of intoxication among youth. These actions will slowly change and reshape youth culture”.

Source: Young people and alcohol abstention: youth cultural practices and being a non-drinker in Finland and Australia. Adele Pavlidis, Anni Ojajarvi & Andy Bennett. Published online: 15 Jan 2019.

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