Young adults, gender and intoxication

A qualitative sociological study of young adults’ experiences with alcohol use.


This project explores young peoples’ alcohol consumption in various and different situations in their everyday lives in Denmark. The overall aim is to examine the relationship between gender and the meaning and context of alcohol intoxication for young men and women. The study gets behind the statistics of young peoples’ alcohol consumption and focus on their own perspectives on alcohol intoxication. The study will thus provide knowledge and insights based on qualitative data from a gendered perspective, which is underrepresented in current research. The results of the study can also qualify and be useful in designing targeted health promotion programs aimed to decrease the harms associated with heavy alcohol consumption.


Alcohol use, misuse and intoxication have long been associated with men and masculinity. However, there is growing evidence that these gender differences are diminishing. While young women’s drinking and intoxication has not yet entirely “caught up” to their male peers, much research suggests that the gender gap in intoxication is narrowing and that young men and women’s drinking patterns are becoming more similar. Although, the drinking frequencies and quantities of young men and women may be becoming more similar, this does not necessarily mean that their drinking practices, the social contexts of their drinking, and the meaning of intoxication in their lives are also converging. In fact there are many questions that still need to be answered including: To what extent are there still significant gender differences in the meaning and context of drinking and intoxication for young women and men? What are the contemporary gender norms and expectations of being intoxicated and how does gender shape the experience of intoxication, the meaning of alcohol use, and the social interpretation and consequences of intoxication? These are some of the questions that this project attempts to answer.

The study

The study is based on in-depth interviews with 140 young adult men and women between 18 and 25 years of age. We ask them where they drink, who they drink with, what it means for them to drink, which kinds of pleasures and risks they ascribe to alcohol consumption and how their consumption of alcohol has changed. We utilize a recruitment strategy that combines online and street-level recruitment methods. The sample size and the recruitment strategy ensures that respondents have different social backgrounds, networks, education etc. These differences are important since they may influence experiences with and perspectives on alcohol intoxication.

The study was initiated in 2015 and concluded in the beginning af 2019


The research project is funded by Research Fund Denmark: Social Sciences, . The full title of the project is: The societal meaning of the intoxicated body: A qualitative sociological study of alcohol intoxication, gender and young adults.



Jakob Demant


Sociologisk Institut
Københavns Universitet