Place of alcohol in the ‘wellness toolkits’ of midlife women in different social classes: A qualitative study in South Australia

Paul R. Ward, Kristen Foley, Samantha B. Meyer, Carlene Wilson, Megan Warin, Samantha Batchelor, Ian N. Olver, Jessica A. Thomas, Emma Miller, Belinda Lunnay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In this article, we explore how women in different social classes had differential access to resources and services to enhance their ‘wellness’—resulting in classed roles in alcohol consumption. We analyse data from a qualitative study on alcohol by midlife women in South Australia and employ the analogy of a ‘toolkit’ in order to understand the structural patterning of ‘wellness tools’. Bourdieu's relational model of class guides our exploration of women's inequitable opportunities for wellness. Higher social class women had ‘choices’ facilitated by bulging wellness toolkits, such as yoga, exercise and healthy eating regimens—alcohol consumption was not essential to promoting ‘wellness’ and did not have an important place in their toolkits. Middle-class women had less well-stocked toolkits and consumed alcohol in a ‘compensation approach’ with other wellness tools. Alcohol consumption received positive recognition and was a legitimised form of enjoyment, fun and socialising, which needed counterbalancing with healthy activities. Working-class women had sparse toolkits—other than alcohol—which was a tool for dealing with life's difficulties. Their focus was less on ‘promoting wellness’ and more on ‘managing challenging circumstances’. Our social class-based analysis is nestled within the sociology of consumption and sociological critiques of the wellness industry.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)488-507
Number of pages20
JournalSociology of Health and Illness
Volume44
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022

Keywords

  • alcohol
  • Australia
  • consumption
  • midlife women
  • qualitative
  • social class
  • wellness

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