Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Exploring Alcohol Abstinence: The experience of middle aged non-drinkers in New Zealand

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posted on 2024-05-30, 04:04 authored by Luisa Power

There is a growing number of people choosing to abstain from alcohol. The reasons for abstaining can be attributed to a variety of factors, such as the growing awareness of the long-term impact of alcohol consumption, the rise of wellness trends that emphasise self-care, career and economic pressures, and life changes that can contribute to people prioritising different interests.

This research aimed to explore the lived experiences of middle-aged non-drinking adults navigating social environments in New Zealand, where alcohol is part of the socio-cultural landscape, shedding light on the intricate interplay between culture, health, and individual choices. Going beyond a lifestyle choice, non-drinking in this context signifies a departure from the deeply ingrained cultural norm of alcohol consumption. The qualitative research design with a thematic analysis was informed by a phenomenological framework, with data collected from individual interviews with 11 participants aged 35 to 50, three male participants and eight female participants, all identified as parents. The interviews were then transcribed and subject to thematic analysis, which identified four themes: "Considering abstinence," which depicted the participants’ contemplation period before becoming non-drinkers. "Consolidating the decision- The first steps in becoming a non-drinker" highlighted the early challenges and positive aspects after sobriety. “Developing strategies to navigate their post-drinking lifestyle” depicted the change in social dynamics and participants’ use of masking to manage social occasions. And finally, "Living socially as non-drinkers” highlighted relational changes, including positive parenting and feeling more authentic. These findings contribute to understanding the motivations, challenges, and social repercussions of this lifestyle choice, offering insights into this demographic. By gaining insight into people’s experiences of non-drinking, societal perceptions and stereotypes around abstinence, the research aimed to enrich the understanding of social and cultural dynamics surrounding alcohol consumption. Furthermore, it can help to inform policies supporting alcohol regulation and alcohol-free spaces, as well as informing health professionals in comprehending the multifaceted aspects of drinking and abstinence in New Zealand's normative drinking culture.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

CC BY-ND 4.0

Degree Discipline

Health Psychology

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Health Psychology

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

4 Experimental research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Alternative Language


Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Health


Lyons , Antonia