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Last update:
14 November 2012
Genacis.org

History

THE EU PROJECT "GENDER & ALCOHOL" (CONTRACT QLG4-CT-2001-01496)

A number of the researchers participating in GENACIS are members of the EU project "Gender & Alcohol - A Multinational Study". In cooperation with WHO this project aims to examine further and in more detail the differences in drinking behaviour amongst men and women in 13 EU and 2 non-EU countries. Its objectives are:

(1) to compare within countries men's and women's drinking patterns and drinking contexts; to compare across countries men's and women's drinking patterns and contexts, and gender differences in drinking patterns and contexts.

(2) To compare within countries men's and women's alcohol-related problems, to compare across countries the prevalence of men's and women's alcohol problems, and gender differences in problem prevalence.

(3) To compare, within countries and across countries, the experience of violence in close relationships as regards men's and women's drinking behaviour.

(4) To compare, within countries and across countries, gender differences in social inequalities in alcohol use/abuse and the influence of social role combinations on heavy use.

(5) To analyse how societal-level factors (e.g., gender equality, drinking culture norms) predict women's and men's alcohol use and alcohol-related problems in various regions of Europe and elsewhere. Using centralised data analysis and standardised measures, the study will improve upon previous international and European alcohol research and better inform European Public Health policy by identifying gender differences in "at-risk" subgroups and by seeking to better specify and understand the differing correlates and conditions of problematic alcohol use between the genders.

The successfully completed precursor to the proposed study, the concerted action "Alcohol consumption and alcohol problems in European countries" (Ahlström et al.; Allamani et al., Bloomfield, Bloomfield et al.; Cipriani et al., Gmel et al.; Knibbe & Bloomfield; Plant et al.) of the EU Biomed 2 funding programme, also investigated determinants of women's alcohol consumption as well as gender differences in alcohol use across nine European countries. This completed study was a solid first step in devoting research attention to women's drinking behaviour and gender differences in alcohol consumption across a number of European countries. The limitations of that study, however, were (1) a rather small number of countries to represent the main drinking cultures found in Europe, and (2) the use of previously collected data sets for the analysis, where the number of commonly measured variables was rather limited, especially in measuring alcohol-related problems.

These two challenges experienced by the previous study have been addressed and overcome in the proposed study, thereby giving it a more robust design. This has been done by increasing the number of countries included in the study, so that typifying countries by traditional drinking cultures can be done more reliably. Within the proposed study are European countries representing Mediterranean, wine-producing, and predominately Catholic countries (Italy, France, Austria, Switzerland, parts of Germany), those countries representing the temperance-oriented, Nordic drinking tradition (Finland, Norway, Sweden), Eastern European countries with a spirits-oriented drinking culture (Czech Republic, Hungary), and countries of central Europe with combined traditions (Netherlands, United Kingdom, parts of Germany). In addition, countries outside of Europe (Brazil and Mexico) are participating in the study which also represent particular aspects of distinct drinking cultures. This broad palette of societies will greatly contribute to verifying and reproducing results obtained in the Biomed 2 concerted action and in further explaining them.

The second challenge experienced in the previous concerted action, that of the relatively few directly comparable original variables available for secondary analysis, is corrected by the extensive efforts of the partners of the proposed study to collect fresh data with standard measures for the main variables of interest. This has been achieved through detailed consultations among the partners of the proposed study to develop a recommended set of standard questions to be applied in new data collecting efforts. Moreover, in contrast to the previous concerted action, where data for each specific research question were analysed either by the research task co-ordinator responsible or by the study leader, the data to be used in the proposed study will be analysed centrally. This will ensure a higher degree of uniformity and reliability of the results.

The support requested of the 5th Framework research programme will result in the implementation of a multi-national study of gender and alcohol with the following specific and measurable objectives:

1. To compare within countries men's and women's drinking patterns and drinking contexts; to compare across countries men's and women's drinking patterns and contexts, and gender differences in drinking patterns and contexts. The study has collected data based on comparable methods of measuring drinking behaviour, allowing comparisons to be analysed more directly and more precisely, and offering new and more informative data on alcohol consumption for reference use in the European Union. Additionally, gender differences in drinking contexts will be described and compared.

2. To compare within countries men's and women's alcohol-related problems, to compare across countries the prevalence of men's and women's alcohol problems, and gender differences in problem prevalence. As in the case of measuring alcohol consumption, the use of a standard instrument across the study countries allows rates of problems to be compared across gender and also provides a new source of data on alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence for reference use in the European Union.

3. To compare, within countries and across countries, the experience of violence in close relationships as regards men's and women's drinking behaviour. One area of particular significance for understanding the role of alcohol is violence between intimates, because most violence against women occurs in the context of an intimate relationship. The study is the first to examine this relationship in a number of the study countries that are gathering data on this question. The results of this research goal will be one of the few uniform sources of data that can serve to inform health and social policies on alcohol-related domestic violence in Europe and elsewhere.

4. To compare, within countries and across countries, gender differences in social inequalities in alcohol use and abuse, and to compare gender differences in the influence of combinations of social roles on heavy use. (1) Previous studies which have investigated the influence of socio-economic factors on alcohol use have found a relationship opposite to that found in the general health inequalities literature; i.e., those with lower SES are more often abstainers from alcohol. This study systematically examines the unique nature of social inequalities in alcohol use and abuse and the gender differences in these inequalities across countries. (2) Information on how men and women combine family and work roles is important for understanding the development of drinking patterns and the adverse effects of alcohol consumption. This study identifies what combinations of social roles for both men and women are related to higher risk for hazardous alcohol use and abuse.

5. To analyse how societal-level factors (e.g., gender equality, drinking culture norms) predict women's and men's alcohol use and alcohol-related problems in various regions of Europe and elsewhere. The diversity of countries in the project allows analyses of societal characteristics (a) as possible predictors of patterns of men's and women's alcohol consumption and related problems across societies, and (b) as possible modifiers of associations with individual-level predictors. This information will be useful in helping to develop a social and health policy within the European Union which can be more regionally, as well as culturally gender-sensitive.

For further information about the European GENACIS Project please visit:
EU project Final Report (January 2005) to download (PDF in .zip file)

Previously funded by

  • the European Commission (contract QLG4-CT-2001-0196):
    "Gender & Alcohol - A Multinational Study"
  • the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
    (grants R21 AA012941)
  • the Swiss Federal Office of Education and Science
    (contract 01.0366)
  • the German Ministry of Health and Social Security
  • the World Health Organization (WHO)
  • the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)
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