Process versus Outcome-Oriented Drinking: An Exploratory Study of Wine and Moderate Drinking Occasions among Young Adults in California

By Antin, Tamar M. J.; Paschall, Mallie J. et al. | Contemporary Drug Problems, Summer 2010 | Go to article overview

Process versus Outcome-Oriented Drinking: An Exploratory Study of Wine and Moderate Drinking Occasions among Young Adults in California


Antin, Tamar M. J., Paschall, Mallie J., Nygaard, Peter, Contemporary Drug Problems


Wine is increasing in popularity among young adults in the United States. Previous research has shown that when young adults consume wine, they typically do so in moderation. This article reports on the findings of an exploratory, qualitative study conducted in 2006 that investigated factors associated with moderate wine drinking occasions among young adults. We conducted semistructured interviews with 15 young adults between the ages of 18-26 from Northern California university communities. Using a pattern-level analytic approach, interviews revealed two modes in which these young adults drink: outcome-oriented and process-oriented drinking. These two drinking outcomes were associated with different beverages, consumption patterns, drinking settings, sociability, and levels of maturity, as perceived by study participants. This article considers moderate drinking occasions among young adults in order to develop strategies to reduce harm associated with heavy consumption. Our pilot study offers insight into this perspective and provides a basis for future research.

KEY WORDS: Wine drinking, moderation, drinking occasions, young adults, qualitative, harm reduction, exploratory.

Wine is becoming an increasingly popular beverage in the United States with beer consumption on a slow decline (Arnold, 2006). The Wine Market Council, a nonprofit trade association for the wine industry, reports that wine consumption has increased dramatically in the United States over the past 10 years and suggests that a growing number of young adults, particularly the Millennial generation, have contributed to the industry's success (Wine Market Council, 2006). As a result, U.S. winemakers are developing marketing efforts directed at the 21-30-year-old age group (Howard, 2005).

Research has shown that wine is more often associated with moderate drinking (i.e., 1-2 drinks per occasion) than other beverage types like hard alcohol and beer (Jensen et al., 2002; Paschall & Lipton, 2005; Rogers & Greenfield, 1999; Smart & Walsh, 1999; Smart & Walsh, 1995). For example, Jensen and colleagues (2002) found that people who prefer to drink beer, as opposed to wine, are more at risk for heavy or binge drinking episodes. Because young adults account for approximately 50% of the adult drinking population in the United States (O'Hare, 2001) and are more likely to drink excessively (Moss, Chen, & Yi, 2007), it is important to further our understanding of moderate (i.e., safer) drinking among young adults because it could have important implications for public health and safety.

Much research has investigated moderate drinking, particularly with respect to health benefits (Gmel, Gutjahr, & Rehm, 2003; Gunzerath, Faden, Zakhari, & Warren, 2004; Rehm, Greenfield, & Rogers, 2001 ; Troncoso, Garcia- Parrilla, & Martinez-Ortega, 2001) and social benefits (Chowdhury, Ramakrishna, Chakraborty, & Weiss, 2006; de Garine & de Garine, 2001; Heath, 2000). However, very little is known about the context of moderate drinking occasions, especially among young adults who are at risk for heavy episodic drinking. Understanding the unique and distinct features of moderate drinking occasions for young adults has important implications for designing successful harm reduction approaches for this age group.

This article reports the results of an exploratory, qualitative study that investigated moderate drinking occasions among young adults, specifically by considering the social context of wine consumption. Not only does a better understanding of moderate drinking contribute to the development of strategies to promote safer drinking, but also it provides a more comprehensive understanding of the role and meaning of alcohol in daily life. Because there is relatively little research literature focused on moderate drinking among young adults in the United States, this research provides a unique perspective from which to advance theoretical discussions and develop hypotheses for future research.

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