Drinking to the Limit: Alcohol, Social Status and Health Governance

Margaretha Järvinen, Christoph Ellersgaard, Anton Grau Larsen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The aim of this article is to analyse social status differences in alcohol norms and practices seen from the perspective of ‘health governance’. Survey data on 1442 employees in a middle-sized, Danish firm are used to construct a Bourdieu-inspired social space, tied to four forms of capital: economic, cultural, inherited and organisational. A range of variables measuring alcohol norms, drinking practices and alcohol-related problems are then inserted into the space. This article identifies status differences in the employees’ drinking patterns indicating that respondents with large amounts of economic, cultural and inherited capital are more responsive to alcohol-related health messages than respondents (and especially males) occupying positions low in the social space. This, however, does not mean that respondents from dominant groups have ‘safe’ drinking habits, as these are defined by the Danish National Health Board. Rather, this article identifies a relatively large group of high-positioned respondents balancing at the limits of risky drinking – or transgressing them, if measured by international standards.
Original languageEnglish
JournalDrugs: Education, Prevention and Policy
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)283-298
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes

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