Understanding drinking in middle-aged men: a systematic review of motivations and experiences

First published: 10 May 2019 | Last updated: 20 May 2019

The aim of this systematic review is to explore the motivations for, and experiences of, drinking in middle-aged men living in the UK.

Around 1.6 million men in the UK aged 45 to 60 drink more than 30 units a week (the higher end of increasing risk, or higher risk drinking), causing potential high levels of health harms as well as societal cost.

Database searches of PsychINFO, Medline and Social Science Citation Index were conducted, with a total of 4911 unique abstracts identified. In addition, searches of key alcohol-related journals and Google Scholar were undertaken. A call for evidence was also issued and key experts in the field were contacted. The reference lists of all included studies were scanned, and forward citation searches conducted.

Screening was undertaken in two stages: title and abstract, and full text. Qualitative research studies published since 1995 were included if they explored motivations for, or experiences of, alcohol consumption among men in the UK aged 45-60. Studies looking exclusively at those with a diagnosis of addiction were excluded. The CASP qualitative research checklist was used to guide quality appraisal of included studies. A meta-ethnographic approach to data analysis was adopted.

Preliminary findings show studies explored both home drinking and drinking taking place outside of the home (most commonly in the pub). The emerging themes from early analysis include: drinking motivations; notions of controlled and responsible drinking; knowing when you’ve had enough; and the acknowledged negative consequences of drinking.

This systematic review provides a greater understanding of the motivations and concerns of middle-aged men in relation to their high levels of drinking. The in-depth knowledge provided will inform development of a strategy for tackling harmful alcohol consumption in this population.


Ms Monika Michalska, Student (BSc Psychology), London South Bank University Mr Andrew Russell, Research and Insights Manager, The Drinkaware Trust Dr Antony C Moss, Director of Education & Student Experience, School of Applied Sciences, London South Bank University Professor Clare Holdsworth, Professor of Social Geography, Keele University Dr Jonathan Ling, Reader in Public Health, University of Sunderland Dr John Larsen, Director of Evidence and Impact, The Drinkaware Trust


Download the presentation

Download the full presentation here

Ms Hannah Parke